South Africa: the Light and Power House for Africa

Posted in Africa | 09-Nov-06 | Author: Norman Levine

Dirk Brand, Director of International Relations in the Office of the Premier: "Apartheid ended in 1994. A decade after Nelson…
Dirk Brand, Director of International Relations in the Office of the Premier: "Apartheid ended in 1994. A decade after Nelson Mandela, South Africa is now the Silicon Valley of the continent. We invest more in the economic development of Southern Africa than any other country in the world."
South Africa (SA), particularly the Western Cape, is the vanguard of the economic and ethnic transformation of Southern Africa. Economically, the Western Cape, is acting as the technological advanced guard for Sub-Sahara Africa, and ethnically South Africa is a case study of how a racial revolution, the replacement of white minority domination by black majority democratic rule, can be accomplished without violence.

“Apartheid ended in 1994. A decade after Nelson Mandela, South Africa is now the Silicon Valley of the continent,” Dirk Brand, the Director of International Relations in the Office of the Premier, said to me as we sat in his office in Cape Town.

“We invest more in the economic development of Southern Africa than any other country in the world,” Brand continued.

Although the Portuguese were the first to begin the westernization of this tip of Africa on their way to India in the 15th Cent., the Europeanization of South Africa essentially began in 1652 when the Dutch occupied Cape Town. A pioneer of the west European scientific revolution of the 17th and 18th Centuries, the Dutch colonization of the Western Cape was the medium through which European secular culture penetrated this remote part of Africa.

During the Napoleonic Wars the Dutch allied themselves with France and with the defeat of Bonaparte at Waterloo the Netherlands also suffered a setback as the British replaced them as masters of the Cape. As part of the British Empire South Africa continued to be the beneficiary of western culture and the Industrial Revolution. Independence from the English Crown arrived in 1961, and in the age of African decolonization SA embarked upon its autonomy as the industrial powerhouse of Sub-Sahara Africa.

Exploiting the advantages bestowed upon it by its modernization the Western Cape today plays the role of the service and technological dynamo, as the macroeconomic think-tank for the developmental programs of SA in particular, and Sub-Sahara Africa in general.

A DESIGN FOR THE FUTURE

The general developmental strategy of SA consists of three interrelated programs.

The New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) is a “grand design,” a global developmental strategy for Sub-Sahara Africa’s growth. A secretariat exists in NEPAD and the function of this secretariat is to oversee and supervise this continent-wide strategy.

Coming into existence in 1992, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which includes the Southern African countries of Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, the Seychelles, SA, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, seeks to liberalize intraregional trade. The major area of concern for SADC is the reduction of tariffs, and customs structures. Philosophically, SADC is committed to the idea of a free trading community for all the countries of Southern Africa.

Within SADC five countries, SA, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland organized themselves into the Southern African Customs Union (SACU). The members of SACU share a common tariff regime without any internal barriers, and customs revenues are shared according to an agreed formula.

SA is Janus-faced, a split personality between US and EU trade policies. In its American appearance, SA embraces free trade policies, the NAFTA model, but in its European embodiment it abides by the EU style of customs unions. Regardless of its adoption of either the American or EU regime SA is committed to some form of regional, or continental economic integration.

As a member of NEPAD, and SADC, SA’s economic principles conform to the US archetype, the enlargement of commerce through the lowering of tariffs. In this regard, SA signed a free trade agreement with the European Union (EU) in 2000, and the EU is still SA’s largest trading partner. Pretoria also signed a statement of agreement with MERCOSUR to found a free trade pact in the future. Within SADC, Pretoria hopes to establish a free trade community by 2008.

"South Africa is a hypothesis for the "Third World" to be considered as a role model. SA should be seen…
"South Africa is a hypothesis for the "Third World" to be considered as a role model. SA should be seen as the light and power house for at least Sub-Sahara Africa creating more stability and security."
In its US stance SA is a recipient of American largesse through the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA), first passed by Congress in 2000, and up for renewal in 2005. The AGOA creates a Generalized System of Preferences, does not lower tariffs across the board, but rather on specific goods.

According to the US Department of Commerce statement AGOA “offers tangible incentives for African countries to continue their efforts to open their economies and build free markets,” and SA takes advantage of these opportunities.

In its EU posture Pretoria strives for a customs confederation within SACU. Pretoria is also a member of the Asia-Caribbean-Pacific Development Fund(ACP), an EU generated organization. SA collaborates with the EU in funneling aid to underdeveloped countries within these regions.

In this regard SA is presently giving economic assistance to Angola. Important oil and natural gas reserves were discovered off the coast of Angola, and SA sent oil rigs and platforms to facilitate Angola’s exploitation of the natural resources.

All these institutional mechanisms reveal SA as a strong and vital economy. They also show the country as seeking to facilitate the progress of Sub-Sahara Africa, and through its hybridization of US-style free-trade zones and EU customs unions it is encouraging SA entrepreneurship.

ETHNIC ASSIMILATION

On the socio-political level SA is a case study in the relatively peaceful transfer of state power from a white minority to a downtrodden African majority. After apartheid came to an end in 1991, Nelson Mandela won the Presidency in 1994, and SA faced two problems that convulsed the imperialized world generally; creating a stable democratic system when the society was polarized between a minority white privileged class that controlled most of the wealth, land, corporate enterprises, educational accomplishments, and a majority of Africans that colonialism and apartheid suppressed into impoverishment; making this transition while avoiding armed racial insurrection.

According to the 2001 Census, the population of SA is almost 45 million, and is demographically divided into the following categories: 79% were African, 8.9% were Colored, 9.6 % were White and 2.5 % were Asian Indian. Translating these labels in western terms African means Black, and Colored means the offspring of a Black-White marriage, or a mulatto. In SA the word Colored is in current use and is a linguistic symbol to designate the offspring of an interracial union.

The success of this socio-political transformation depended upon the ability of SA to generate an African-Colored middle class. The key to social peace was African-Colored economic empowerment. Government engineering, currently directed by the African president Thabo Mbeki, was called upon to device economic strategies to birth an African-Colored middle class as this was the primary way to avoid an African-Colored violent revolution to expropriate the property of the White establishment.

The engines of class reconstruction in SA are embedded in two laws, one concerning commercial and managerial spheres, and the other dealing with the historically complex issue of land redistribution.

In March, 2003, the Mbeki government launched its Broad-Based Black-Colored Economic Empowerment Strategy. The policy has three major objectives: a substantial increase in the number of African-Coloreds who have ownership and control existing or new enterprises; a significant increase in the number of African-Colored empowered and African-Colored engendered enterprises; a significant increase in the number of African-Colored people in executive and senior management positions of enterprises. The African-Colored Economic Empowerment Strategy is a national affirmative action program, and its success is observable in two primary areas, ownership of small and medium- sized businesses, an African-Colored entrepreneurial class, and in executive level positions in major corporations, or government ministries, an African-Colored white collared suburban class.

The problem of land distribution was addressed in 1995 with the formation of the Commission on the Restitution of Land Rights. The goals of the Commission were to provide equitable redress and restoration to victims of dispossession, particularly the landless and the poor, to contribute to the equitable redistribution of land in SA, and to promote racial reconciliation through the restitution process. The land restitution act was the avenue by which the serfs created by apartheid were to become private property owners, and stakeholders in civil society.

In the Western Cape one of the major planning centers of this race-class recomposition is the Office of Finance, Economic Development and Tourism of the Provincial Government. The guiding principle of the Office of Finance, Economic Development and Tourism (OFEDT) is the achievement of African-Colored economic empowerment. It concentrates on the generation of African-Colored small and medium-sized businesses.

The purpose of African-Colored economic empowerment is to lift a majority of the SA population into the middle classes from the economic poverty and political impotence that the policy of apartheid imprisoned them. The theory behind African-Colored economic empowerment is that middle class people are pacific, consensual and given to democratic compromise. The underlying intent of African-Colored economic empowerment is to guide a peaceful revolution. By the replacement of labor bondage by the ownership of private property armed racial warfare is avoidable.

"Ethnically South Africa is a case study of how racial revolution can be accomplished without violence. It should be used…
"Ethnically South Africa is a case study of how racial revolution can be accomplished without violence. It should be used as a prescription for the surmounting of underdevelopment and the ethnic hatred that was a legacy of Western colonialism."
GIVING BIRTH TO A MIDDLE CLASS

“Since the end of apartheid the South African economy experienced yearly growth rate of between 3.2 and 3.5 per cent,” Ms. Lynn Brown, the Director of the OFEDT in the Western Cape Provincial Government, informed me. “The Western Cape, which strives to be the service center for all of Southern Africa, did better and achieved a growth rate of 4%.”

“This economic expansion includes the African-Colored community,” Ms. Brown pointed out. “An African -Colored middle class is emerging. Last year the purchase of new cars by African-Colored increased by 40%”

A Colored South African who is the Director of a provincial office, Ms. Brown’s contribution to the reconstitution of class in SA concentrates upon supporting small and medium-sized businesses. Toward this purpose she originated two programs, the Red Barn Door, and a Thousand-by-Thousand Campaign.

The Red Door Program provides free consultation to aspiring African-Colored small and medium-sized business proprietors. By providing speakers of the highest quality, the Red Door allows budding African-Colored entrepreneurs access to commercial expertise. The information revolution is made a business asset to the previously apartheid impoverished and uneducated.

The Thousand-by-Thousand Campaign provides financial subsidies to African-Colored desiring to start their own businesses. This program has been successful in establishing firms run from the home, such as tourist guides. Parties with good business proposals apply for government grants, and in 2005 6 billion rands were spent on this program.

Land redistribution is also another channel for SA’s agenda of generating a middle class. In the 20th Cent. the dispute over land ownership was one of the most irreconcilable global confrontations. In the United States the majority white European population, because of its superior military force, simply expropriated the land of the original inhabitants, the red-skinned Native Americans. In Russia in 1917 the Bolsheviks seized upon the slogan of land redistribution in order to persuade the Russian serfs to be their political allies. A similar scenario unfolded in China where Mao Tse-Tung employed the ideology of land redistribution to garner the support of the Chinese peasantry.

SA is seeking to circumvent the Leninist-Maoist approach to land redistribution, and in order to implement the vision of the 1995 Commission on the Restitution of Land Right two enabling institutions were brought into existence, the Land and Agricultural Development Bank in 2002, and a Land Claims Court, 1995.

The Land and Agricultural Development Bank offered financial subsidies to individual proprietors, agribusinesses, and to communal farms. It is a vital means by which the semi-serfs of SA’s rural areas receive an initial down payment to enter the ownership society.

The Land Claims Court specializes in adjudicating competing property claims. When two individuals assert ownership to the same land their competing claims are resolved through the judiciary process. SA substituted agrarian revolution with agrarian adjudication.: The rule of law replaced the COMMUNIST MANIFESTO.

The process of class restructuring in SA presupposes that embourgeoisement results in a stable society. The class reconstitution of SA assumes that an ownership society leads to social civility and the respect for law. Property is the precondition of equity.

Even though the economic advances of SA are apparent this does not negate the fact that massive poverty continues. Cape Town is a thriving metropolis, but a hour drive outside of the city reveals the shantytowns that plague all of the continent of Africa.

BLACK AND COLORED ENTREPRENEURSHIP

Calvin Johannus acted as my guide to the shantytown of Athlom. A perfect example of the success of Lynn Brown’s Thousand-by-Thousand Program, Johannus began his career as a political activist in the African National Congress of Mandela. After spending time in jail under the Afrikaner dictatorship Johannus became a teacher, and then became a private entrepreneur opening his own tourist business. An African Colored, Johannus received the money to start his tourist firm from the Thousand-by-Thousand Program.

Athlom is a shantytown of approximate 500,000 African and Colored, and it is the abyss of political powerlessness and economic impoverishment. The houses are made of rickety wood, or cardboard, and tilt because of their poor foundations and cannot stand erect in the wind. They are one room domiciles, and house as many people as are able to curl on the floor. They have no heat, no showers, no toilets, and unclean, stench-ridden outhouses are only ten feet away. Coal stoves are used for cooking, there are no fire alarms or extinguishes, and this creates the danger of fires that could spread like a wave to adjacent buildings. The unemployment rate is about 80%, there are not sufficient buses to ferry children to schools, there are no fire hydrants, and fire trucks could not penetrate through the unpaved narrow hole-pocked streets. One out of four occupants is infected with AIDS.

"In March, 2003, the Mbeki government launched its Broad-Based Black-Colored Economic Empowerment Strategy. The policy has three major objectives: a…
"In March, 2003, the Mbeki government launched its Broad-Based Black-Colored Economic Empowerment Strategy. The policy has three major objectives: a substantial increase in the number of African-Coloreds who have ownership and control existing or new enterprises; a significant increase in the number of African-Colored empowered and African-Colored engendered enterprises; a significant increase in the number of African-Colored people in executive and senior management positions of enterprises."
Nevertheless, on the way out of Athlom my guide Johannus took me past a neighborhood of Mandela Houses, which is essentially an urban renewal program for shantytowns. A vast improvement over the inflammable wooden shacks of shantytown, all the houses in the Mandela development are concrete. Even though modest a Mandela House has three rooms, one of which is a bathroom with running water, they are wired for electricity, and provide habitation for a single family. Mandela Houses increase sociability, particularly for young people, because they are reachable over paved roads, and form a safe neighborhood in which the young gather as teens and play soccer on the pavement.

The epitome of the transformation of South Africa became starkly visible when Johannus drove me to a Philani, a combination handicrafts factory and mall. The second floor was the manufacturing hub. It was crowded with ten weaving looms, and at each loom an African-Colored women sat engrossed in her trade. Some of the women brought their children, too young to attend school, to their workplace where they watched the infants as the mothers tooled. The weavers were in good spirits, joking with each other, happy and industrious at earning a salary.

The first floor was a mall that displayed the goods made on the second floor industrial center. On exhibit were men’s shirts, blankets, women’s blouses, and elephants, tigers and monkeys miniaturized into wooden jewelry. Tourists, city dwellers looking for a good bargain, entered and carefully examined the merchandise. The cashier, who did not take credit cards, busily added up the total bill and took cash.

A Philani is a privately owned commercial enterprise. The proprietor is the recipient of the majority of the profits, but each of the women weavers receives a salary depending upon the quantity of her goods that were sold. Most importantly, the women weavers learn the advantages of self-employment and economic independence, while the manager enhances his skills of commercial entrepreneurship.

Continuously, without halt, an African-Colored middle class is undergoing its inception.

Like Lynn Brown, Ms. Mmatsatsi Ramasodi is an African who is an executive of a government office. Ms. Mmatsatsi is the CEO of the Marketing Services and Intelligence at the Cape Town Routes, the provincial tourist agency of the Western Cape.

“The province, with Cape Town as the capital, is more economically advanced than other parts of the country, “ Ms. Mmatsatsi informed me. “Unfortunately, the advances that you see here are slower to come into existence in the other provinces of the country.’

“Nevertheless, SA is the magnate of Sub-Sahara. Approximately, 50,000 people from other parts of Southern Africa immigrate into SA each year. Like Hispanics in America they come seeking economic opportunity.”

“This is a problem because some cannot find jobs and add to the high unemployment rate,” Ms. Mmatsatsi added. “But we cannot stop this immigration because SA is majority African-Colored and we cannot shut the door to our African brethren, particularly when we ourselves suffered from racism under apartheid.”

This immigration is also a statement about the success of the SA metamorphosis. The country is viewed as the Statue of Liberty of Sub-Sahara Africa.

SA has launched upon a historical experiment that has global implications. The proposition of this experiment is that middle classes are imbued with a sense of social equity, and that this sense of social equivalence will eliminate racial friction.

The pursuit of this proposition requires that SA beget a middle class and that the best way to class equivalence is by means of the universalization of property. It is a statement that democracy can only function within a bourgeois economic order.

SA is a hypothesis for the Third World to consider. It is a prescription for the surmounting of underdevelopment and the ethnic hatred that was a legacy of western colonialism.

THE CONTRADICTIONS OF IMPERIALISM

SA is an example of the ambiguities of western imperialism.

From the point of view of ethnic equality, SA like all of Africa suffered from the degradation of western racism. A dominant feature of European culture, from the time of the Portuguese and Spanish explorations of the 15th Century Anglo-Saxons considered all black skinned people as inferior. The Blacks and Coloreds of SA bore the stigma of racial inferiorization.

From the point of view of industrio-governmental skills, however, SA Blacks and Coloreds from the moment apartheid was overthrown were beneficiaries of the scientific, educational and legislative expertise transferred from London to Cape Town. SA became an instantaneous heir to the Enlightenment. While apartheid existed these scientific, educational, and legislative techniques were perverted as instruments of oppression, but with the achievement of Black and Colored liberation the industrial growth, technological advances, and commercial adeptness were expropriated by Black and Coloreds and became instruments of their post-apartheid progress.

The history of Central Africa was different. The imperial partition, the European administration of these Central African territories was not completed until after World War One, and was brought to an end by the national liberation of the 1950’s and 1960’s. Although western racism was operative during these years the period of western colonialism in Central Africa was too brief for the transference of technological and administrative know-how to take place. The transference of the Enlightenment takes centuries, and European imperialism in Central Africa was not bestowed with sufficient time to succeed in this cultural transplantation.

History is the stage of wrenching ironies. SA was a victim of racism, but the beneficiary of European industrial preeminence. In post-apartheird SA the technology is not a tool for ethnic hegemony, but a lever for the achievement of racial equality. The economic growth of SA, a result of the modernization process imposed by Dutch and English white supremacy, once a hammer of oppression, is now a device by which a Black and Colored middle class is evolving, and SA is following the US as a model of ethnic integration.

CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

  • South Africa is a hypothesis for the "Third World" to be considered as a role model.

  • It should be used as a prescription for the surmounting of underdevelopment and the ethnic hatred that was a legacy of Western colonialism.

  • SA should be seen as the light and power house for at least Sub-Sahara Africa creating more stability and security.

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