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Southern Africa Report Archive

vol 15 no 1

Editorial and Contents for Vol 15 No 1
SAR editorial collective

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Southern Africa Report

SAR, Vol 15 No 1, December 1999
Page 1


Ballots and bullets: a bit of a cliche this title, but the present issue of SAR has plenty of news about both as they are to be found in southern Africa. We include, for example, a whole file of contributions on Angola, a country where blood continues to flow mercilessly, grimly, unendingly. And there is also a brace of articles on the run-up to elections in a number of other countries of the region: Namibia, Zambia and Mozambique.

Angola, first. Ian Spears provides a helpful overview of Angola's continuing travail, a picture not unfamiliar to SAR readers who have followed the bleak accounts of Brittain, Darch, Sogge and others in these pages over recent years. But his survey provides a helpful context for the other articles that it frames. Central, certainly, amongst these contributions is an account, written for us by Patrick Alley and Alex Yearsley of Global Witness , that reveals the importance of the shadowy world of the international diamond trade to fuelling UNITA's arsenal and Savimbi's overweening ambition, and to keeping the war in Angola alive.

We reproduce here, as well, a strong statement by Angolans from within "civil society" there who have organized under the banner of the Angolan Group of Reflection for Peace (GARP) to press - with equal and even-handed vigour - both parties to the war (UNITA and the MPLA in power) to evidence humane purpose and to give peace a chance. (As we go to press we learn that one of the main actors in this peace movement, the Angolan journalist and a leading figure in GARP, Rafael Marques, has been arrested by the government for his pains: an index, self-evidently, of the difficulties of bringing common-sense to bear in the militarized cock-pit that his country has become.) And we also bring testimony of a more modest, but no less positive, effort to keep hope alive in Angola, in an account of the grass-roots development work undertaken in Luanda by Canadian Allan Cain and his colleagues in the Development Workshop. Getting news from Angola is no easy matter: we are pleased to be able to offer these diverse reports on the situation in that embattled country.

From bullets to ballots. What, meanwhile, of elections in southern Africa? These are not much help if politicians choose to ignore their outcome, of course - as Savimbi did earlier in this decade, thus further accelerating, on Spears' account, the downward spiral in Angola. But electoral processes can be perverted in other ways as well, as our articles on Zambia and Namibia demonstrate. Interestingly, in both countries a key issue is the attempt by graceless incumbent presidents - Frederick Chiluba and Sam Nujoma - to bend the rules in order to allow themselves the chance, in forthcoming elections, to win the third terms in office that might otherwise be thought illegal in terms of their respective constitutions.

Both our authors here - Jotham Momba and Paul Kalenga - critique the high-handed manner of these leaders and their political parties-in-power in this and other particulars. Fortunately, for Namibia, Kalenga is also able to identify the emergence of a potential instrument of on-going resistance to such trends, the freshly-minted opposition party, the Congress of Democrats. The CoD, it seems, is but the latest manifestation of an encouraging mobilization of democratic demands in Namibian politics that we first began to document in these pages a year ago (see Lauren Dobell, "The Ulenga Moment: Swapo and Dissent," SAR , Vol. 14, No. 1 [December, 1998]). Whatever its prospects in the present election, so soon upon us, Kalenga suggests the CoD to have an important role for the future.

In Mozambique, as Carrie Manning reports, politicians seem more inclined to follow the rules, a relatively polite "normalcy" of political interactions having descended upon the country. Better than on-going civil war, certainly: just ask the Angolans. But, as Manning notes almost in passing, in socio-economic terms little enough of Mozambique's recent investment surge has "trickled down to the average citizen and travel outside the capital is a sobering contrast to the boom town feel of Maputo." Nor do the two chief contending parties, Frelimo and Renamo-UE, seem particularly preoccupied with such realities. Genuine empowerment, anyone?

Speaking of empowerment, what of the fall-out from South Africa's own election earlier this year, an event we chronicled, both fore and aft, in our previous two issues. Recall, in particular, Carolyn Bassett's article ("Electoral illusion: COSATU and the ANC," SAR , Vol. 14, No. 3 [May, 1999]) which noted with bemusement COSATU's virtually unqualified support for the ANC in that election - somewhat surprising since the ANC under Mbeki seemed to offer relatively little to labour and, indeed, to threaten much. Here, in our lead article, Bassett returns (writing with her SAR colleague, Marlea Clarke) to outline the substance, in the ANC's post-election practice, of just such a deepening threat to labour's interests.

Bassett and Clarke's forceful presentation brings to mind an exchange in these pages several years ago, one in which Eddie Webster and Leo Panitch debated the likely implications of COSATU's embrace of a close, post-apartheid alliance with the ANC ( SAR , Vol. 11, No. 3 [April, 1996]). Webster ("COSATU: Old Alliances, New Strategies") saw in COSATU's approach the seeds of an on-going process of progressive transformation in South Africa, while Panitch ("COSATU and Corporatism: A Response to Eddie Webster"), ever vigilant regarding the dangers of corporatist entanglements on the part of labour, soberly anticipated the worst. Is it too early to say which one was right? The debate continues.

* * *

We join our readers in mourning the passing of Julius Nyerere. His stance on the imperative of southern African liberation, while not without limitations of its own, was well in advance of virtually all his colleagues in the front ranks of African politics during the decades of the war for the overthrow of intransigent white minority rule. This commitment was combined, more generally, with bracing insights as to the costs of a great many other negative dimensions of the African predicament - from self-interested African elites to predatory global capitalist economic practices - and an attractive willingness to experiment with various profane alternatives. We asked Cranford Pratt, who both worked with Nyerere in Tanzania and has written widely on that country, to provide the insightful appreciation of Nyerere that we present in this issue.

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Southern Africa Report
Contents - Vol 15 No 1
"The Angola File"

Editorial: Ballots and Bullets - 1

Alliance Woes: COSATU Pays the Price - 3
by Marlea Clarke and Carolyn Bassett

Angola: A Backgrounder - 7
by Ian S Spears

Angola: Diamonds Are a War's Best Friend - 10
by Patrick Alley with Alex Yearsley

The Angolan Peace Manifesto - 15

Small Victories: Water in Luanda - 17
by Carolyn Bassett and Marnie Lucas

Julius Kambarage Nyerere 1922-1999
Reflections on his Legacy
- 21
by Cranford Pratt

Namibia: The Congress of Democrats - 25
by Paul Kalenga

Zambia: Chiluba: The Third Term Temptation - 28
by Jotham C Momba

Mozambique: Side-step into "Normalcy"? - 31
by Carrie Manning

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