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US election debacle


Dennis Brutus

The

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?

The

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.

Whether

tweedledee or tweedledum wins, how will Africa and specifically South Africa be

affected?

It

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.

In

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.

In

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

Gore.

In

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.’

Likewise,

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.

However,

such recolonisation is well advanced, and the question is increasingly being

posed: is South Africa a US lapdog?

Last

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

overpaid.

The

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.

Is

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.

Recently

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.

The

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.

It

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

repayments.

And

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

 

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