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Southern Africa Report Archive

WHO'S CELEBRATING? Well, we all are. Or at least expect to be when, in late April, an ANC government is finally elected in South Africa. Reaching that point will be no straightforward exercise. There are just too many actors - the right-wing, both black and white - who seem committed to violent disruption of the process. There are also powerful forces behind the drive for a democratic settlement and they should see it through. There's another question, however: who's most likely to be doing most of the celebrating once the electoral dust settles. (jbv)

vol 9 no 4

Editorial and contents for Vol 9 No 4
the SAR editorial collective


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Southern Africa Report

SAR, Vol 9, No 4, March 1994
Page 1
"Editorial"

EDITORIAL:
WHO'S CELEBRATING?

Well, we all are. Or at least expect to be when, in late April an ANC government is finally elected in South Africa. Of course, as Oxfam-Canada's Meyer Brownstone recently saw for himself (and recounts in the present issue) reaching that point will be no straightforward exercise. There are just too many actors - the right-wing, both black and white - who seem committed to violent disruption of the process. And yet South Africa is not a Sarajevo or a Somalia, either. There are also powerful forces behind the drive for a democratic settlement and they should see it through.

There's another question, however: who's most likely to be doing most of the celebrating once the electoral dust settles. In Linda Freeman's opinion, it could very well be the Canadian business community, now, with vigorous Canadian government assistance, beginning to probe South Africa prospects in earnest. Indeed, Freeman's annual overview of Canadian policy really invites "Canadian anti-apartheid forces" to wake up and smell the coffee. The good old broad-based anti-apartheid alliance of the past is gone forever. Yet the black majority in South Africa "has much to lose in the new dispensation." Freeman knows this. Bishop Tutu knows this. ("After sanctions are lifted," Freeman quotes him as saying, "it must not be business as usual. [We need] a kind of investment that seeks to turn around the dispossession of power and empower the dispossessed.") Needless to say, it's not something the Canadian government is very interested in hearing.

Nor all erstwhile "anti-apartheid forces," for that matter. One recent celebration - an election fund-raiser sponsored in Toronto by the Voter Education South Africa Canada (VESAC) project on the occasion of the fourth anniversary of Nelson Mandela's release from prison - hinted at some of the problems in this respect. Nice to see old comrades from the numerous vigils, demonstrations, sit-ins and planning meetings held over the years, of course. Hugs and kisses all round (even for South African diplomats who had spent the last few decades denigrating the ANC and lying on behalf of their country!)

But what was one to make of Ann Medina, "media personality" now pressed into service as emcee for the occasion? In one of her introductions she observed - news to most anti-apartheid activists in the room - that Canadian business had recognized the need for economic sanctions and had gone along with them most gracefully. She even managed to squeeze in a good word in this respect for SNC-Lavalin, long since fingered by Freeman (in her "Trapped by Past Gestures," SAR , 8, #3-4 [January-February, 1993]) as a notorious sanctions-buster. Head table dignitary Mark Drake, President of the Canadian Exporters Association, clearly knew a good straight line when he was fed one. All very well, he averred, but because of sanctions the Canadian business community has a lot of catching up to do vis--vis the Japanese and others! Applause (although not from every table). As ANC representative Victor Moche said, somewhat sheepishly, to one member of the SAR editorial collective after the event, "It's a new paradigm."

What are left-overs from the southern African support network - those who are either too smart or too stubborn to welcome a "new paradigm" that simply hails uncritically post-apartheid South Africa's embrace by global capitalism - to do? It's a question much discussed in these pages in recent issues, of course. But Judith Marshall, long-time TCLSAC activist, does give some suggestive new spins to her own answer to the question. Locating TCLSAC's current "South-South-North" initiatives (see SAR , 7, #4 [March, 1992]) within a provocative historical account of the committee's evolution to date, she illuminates many of the challenges that the attempt by Canadians to forge effective bonds with new currents of resistance in southern Africa must face. She also suggests that links to the Action Canada Network - an alliance of opponents of Canada's own uncritical subordination to globalism - may be one way of building a fresh base, beyond the celebrations, for southern Africa-related work on the Canadian left.

* * *

Besides, what's to celebrate in Angola? Perhaps only Jonas Savimbi has any excuse for doing so. After all, as Victoria Brittain describes the situation there after a recent visit, he and his UNITA movement have just got away with a most astonishing act of defiance of both the majority vote of the Angolan people and of the (ostensible) will of the international community...and come up smiling. Stop them before they kill again? Not likely, unfortunately. Small wonder that Tokyo Sexwale, the leader of a recent ANC delegation to Angola, could draw a sobering potential parallel between South Africa's current situation and Angola at the time of the United Nations sponsored elections of 1992: "The similarity is the uncertainty, the fear that some may not accept the outcome of the elections and the dangers of the open confrontation that could take place." For Savimbi, read Buthelezi. Let us hope not.

What are southern African activists to do about so intractable a situation as that presented by Angola, grave-yard (literally) of so many hopes? Or about Mozambique for that matter, where violence also continues. And where President Chissano, once one of Frelimo's leading Marxist cadres, now proclaims himself a follower of the Maharishi Yogi and has helped organize extensive classes in "meditation training" for military and civil service officials and their families ("Beatles' Guru Offers Nirvana to Mozambique," New York Times , February 10, 1994). There is also talk of handing over to the guru's "Heaven on Earth Development Project in Mozambique" some 49 million acres of land: all of which might be quite amusing if it were not so sad. "He who laughs has not yet heard the terrible tidings," as Brecht once wrote. Here, then, is a leadership at the end of its rope, driven to a state of apparent political catatonia by the cruelties South Africa's destabilization policy has inflicted on the country over the years.

Small wonder that we too snatch at such (less transcendental) hope as we can find in Ken Wilson's article on Mozambique, included below. True, it presents a rather more benign picture of Renamo's activities than we're used to carrying - although even Wilson admits that this picture, from Morrumbala in Zambezia Province, is probably not typical of Renamo's practices in many other parts of the country. But it is the image of a "people's peace," welling up from below, demanding settlement from both Renamo and Frelimo, that is most worth emphasizing from his article in any case. The Mozambican people both desire and deserve something better than recent southern African history has had to offer them. We cannot abandon them in their attempt to find it.

* * *

For good measure, in the present issue, we also stir in a sobering account of the current plight of Zimbabwean farmworkers (by Blair Rutherford) and a sceptical view of the ANC's announced environmental policies (by David McDonald). All this, and no sports or comic strips! Please forgive us, then, for raining on your parade.

And, of course, let's do celebrate by all means. Certainly we're all entitled to do so, not least because, as anti-apartheid activists, we made our own contribution (however modest) to despatching the apartheid state into the dust-bin of history. Think about it: who'd have predicted even five years ago that we'd be this close to marking any kind of victory in South Africa in March of 1994? Besides, victories anywhere are few and far enough between these days to warrant some dancing in the streets whenever we see one on the horizon. But let's just keep our powder dry while we're doing so. After all, we're already living "the next round," and some of it ain't pretty.

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Southern Africa Report
Contents - Vol 9 No 4
"New Rules of the Game: Canada and South Africa"

Editorial: Who's Celebrating? - 1

The New Rules of the Game: Canada and South Africa 1993 - 3
by Linda Freeman

Keeping Pace: Solidarity Work and the New Globalism - 9
by Judith Marshall

Elections and After: Oxfam in South Africa - 14
by Meyer Brownstone

Abdul Shariff - 17

Getting Away with It: Who's Backing Savimbi? - 18
by Victoria Brittain

The People's Peace in Mozambique - 22
by Ken Wilson

"We Want Change" Cleaning House in Malawi - 25
by Wiseman Chijere Chirwa

The Forgotten Fifth: Farm Workers in Zimbabwe - 28
by Blair Rutherford

It's Not Easy Being Brown: ANC Environmental Policies - 31
by David McDonald

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