SAR, Vol 13 No 3, May 1998
If nothing else, last month's Clinton caravan through Africa captured the imagination of SAR writers. Thus, three authors from whom we solicited articles on recent developments in the region for this issue chose to peg their commentaries on the countries of their choice around the fact of that trip. Indeed, one of them (Colin Darch) finds the very absence of a Clinton visit to Angola to be an eloquent entry-point into assessing the furies that continue to stalk that country.
More directly to the point, however, is Larry Swatuk's disquisition on what, as he titles his article on Botswana, "What Clinton Didn't See." For Clinton came to Africa explicitly to sell a pretty bald version of "neo-liberalism," lobbying strenuously both for its embrace at home (in the form of adoption there of the new US-Africa Growth and Opportunity Bill) but also in Africa itself. Needless to say, he was far less interested in the seamy underside of fall-out from such a policy option: the growth without real development that Swatuk finds to be the true story of the Botswana miracle, the markedly increased level of militarization. and the grey reality of formal freedom juxtaposed to substantive disempowerment that provides much of the substance of Botswana's vaunted democracy.
Interestingly, Clinton's missionary zeal on behalf of the magic of the market, pure and unalloyed, was too much for South Africa's leadership to swallow quite whole. Trade and investment, not aid? Just a minute, Mr. President, said Mandela and Thabo Mbeki (as Hein Marais reports below). Rediscovering, momentarily, some possible downside to the acid-bath of global competitiveness into which they have chosen to thrust South Africa, they demurred gently from this and other one-sided formulae Clinton deployed during his trip. And yet, as Marais further argues, such concern did not spring from any deep-seated misgivings as to the cruel nature of the freshly ascendant globalized economy or from any profound and outspoken unease about Africa's place within it. Rather, he suggests, reluctance to bask entirely uncritically in Clinton's presence was framed by some pretty sophisticated calculations about how best to play hard-to-get - how best, in fact, to jockey for position and leverage vis-à-vis the rival claims of Europe and the US to prominence in Africa - in order to advance South Africa's capitalist future.
Although the Clinton visit makes no appearance in Carole Collins' careful assessment of developments in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, she does find plenty of "dollar diplomacy," regional-style, to be at play there. With her useful article - the first we have carried on Zaire/Congo in SAR - we mark the Congo's entry into SADC, but we also follow the money, not least to South Africa itself where the ANC government is to be found working hand-in-glove with various business interests the better to wedge their way into the post-Mobutu realignment in the Congo's external linkages. Of course, Collins notes other regional dimensions to the Congo drama, not least its implications for the fate of Angola: there changes in the Congo may at least have served the positive purpose of helping further to weaken UNITA. As for the long-suffering people of the Congo themselves, Collins finds far too many of the patterns and practices - the arrogance of power, the creeping authoritarianism, the corruption - familiar from the bad old Mobutu days reasserting themselves. Bad old Mobutu days? The final irony, noted at the close of her article, is the presence of some denizens from that evil time - Mobutuist generals and other hangers-on - still hovering menacingly in the wings. Whereabouts? In South Africa, of all places. One region, many fronts, indeed.
In fact, it may be that we need a new kind of score-card to keep track of developments in the new, post-apartheid region of southern Africa. Writing in a hopeful vein last year, so progressive an American publication as The Nation could find considerable virtue in the increased activism on the continent of Mbeki and Uganda's Yoweri Museveni. Suggesting that these two, in particular, "have proven that you no longer need to be Uncle Sam's proxy to get his dollars if you have influence on the continent and if your policies follow the market," the magazine concludes that such developments "signal the dawn of a new era - let's call it post-neocolonialism - in which Africa governs itself"!
Our turn to say, "Just a minute." Is it too prosaic of us, too relentlessly old-fashioned, to ask for a definition of "neo-colonialism"? Yes, it's true: Mbeki, Museveni and their ilk are playing power politics with some confidence and considerable style. The present issue of SAR is, in part, a testimony to that fact. And yet, as The Nation concedes, both Mbeki and Museveni can step out so boldly onto the continental stage in large part because of their startlingly uncritical acceptance of highly suspect, made-in-Washington, neo-liberal policies and practices. An "African Renaissance" (to invoke the phrase used recently by both Bill Clinton and Thabo Mbeki)? If it looks like neo-colonialism, and it walks like neo-colonialism, and it smells like neo-colonialism, just how much of a Renaissance can it possibly be?
Southern Africa Report
Contents - Vol 13 No 3
Editorial: Dollar Diplomacy - 1
Southern Africa: A New Congo in a New Region - 3
by Carole J L Collins
Clinton in South Africa: Another Scramble for Africa - 8
by Hein Marais
Botswana: What Clinton Didn't See - 11
by Larry Swatuk
Angola Quicksand - 15
by Colin Darch
Royals and Rurals: Impasse in Swaziland - 19
by our Swaziland Correspondent
Still Invisible: San and Khoe in the New South Africa - 26
by Nigel Crawhall
Gay and Lesbian Rights:
Forcing Change in South Africa - 31
by Mazibuko Jara
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