Why does the ruling party rail against the West, even while celebrating its investment and faith in our economy? It simply lacks any logic.
On his death bed in 1778, the French philosopher Voltaire was urged to renounce the devil. He reputedly responded: “This is no time to be making enemies.”
Whoever authored the international relations policy documents for the upcoming ANC national general council meeting ignored Voltaire’s wise warning.
And the scribes were equally ignorant of the dire state of our economy which, while not in its death throes, appears on life-support right now.
Even our President Jacob Zuma on Sunday threw away his the rose-tinted spectacles, and admitted our economy is “sick”.
I began to read the ANC policy documents, but as a friend of mine once described the crushingly dull biography of a worthy local politician: “After page 20, I lost the will to live.”
Fortunately, some other eminent analysts and editors have saved you the bother, and you can now quickly simply depress yourself by reading their summaries headline takeaways of a document that seems to come straight out of the Cold War 1960s, when the world was divided into the West and the Rest.
But, lo, here in late 2015, on the southern tip of Africa, our political rulers and masters are fighting the battles of yesterday, with the day-before-yesterday’s ideas that were even outdated by then.
The sheet anchor of the ANC policy document — that reliable prop for comradely unity in these fractious times — depicts the US as our friends in Iran see it: as the “great Satan”.
Here is one nugget from our ruling party document: “The US does not appreciate the resurgence of Russia and China as dominant factors in the arena of international power relations. It has instead declared a cold war against these two emerging world powers.”
Almost before the ink had dried on this declaration of international solidarity, the “two emerging world powers” proved to have feet very much made of clay. Russia, apart from invading neighbouring Ukraine and unilaterally repudiating its own border treaties, has an economy in free fall.
In fact, Russia is facing its first recession in six years, and its over-reliance on oil and gas exports could soon result in the worst decline of the rouble since 1998.
China’s economic model under the leadership of its Communist Party receives exemplary mention in the ANC document.
It enthuses that this top-heavy, state-led and intrusive economic system “should be the guiding lodestar of our struggle here”.
The “evil” US, the No1 economy in the world, is accused of sponsoring “destabilisation” everywhere — from Latin America and the Middle East to Africa, according to the ANC, with the apparent intention of “toppling progressive democratically elected governments”.
Ignore for a moment both the violence of the language and the vandalism of history here — when, for example, could the citizens of China freely elect or reject their one-party government?
But this Alice in Wonderland fantasy world constructed by the parallel universe creators of the ruling party would be childishly amusing were it not so damaging of our national interest.
Going back to Voltaire and his deathbed caution against attracting unnecessary enmities, just consider three items of headline economic news.
First, the US Congress recently renewed the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). It was precisely this mechanism which allowed the South African car manufacturing industry to flourish. Because of Agoa, South African vehicle exports to the US have soared from $298-million when it began in 2001 to $1.4-billion last year.
As Stewart Lowman in Biznews.com noted, the document’s attack on the US is a “bit like cutting off your nose to spite your face”.
Second, what has the “guiding lodestar of our struggle here” AKA China been doing in these parts recently? Actually it has helped to destroy our steel industry by dumping its government-subsidised ultra-cheap steel exports here.
ArcelorMittal SA on Tuesday mothballed two of its operations and is “reviewing” the entire operations of the famous Vanderbijlpark works, and Evraz Highveld Steel and Vanadium is in business rescue.
There are 290 000 South African jobs on the line. And, while there are plenty of villains in this tragic story to share the blame, the Chinese export model did this country no favours.
China has a ruthless idea of its own best interests and is not too fussy about the means of achieving them. But its famed economic model is under huge stress as its stock exchanges saw $5-trillion in value wiped out in just three months. Its zigzagging policies in recent days suggest that, in the face of a market rout, the state is in an advanced state of panic.
Our other Brics ally, once admired Brazil, is in free fall with an economic recession with a scandal-plagued president
The anchor company of the anchor economy of Western Europe, and America’s most reliable ally there, Volkswagen of Germany, made an interesting announcement via its local affiliate here last week.
Thirdly, although foreign direct investment to South Africa dropped an alarming 31% last year compared to 2013, a real ray of economic light came in via VW. It plans to invest R4.5-billion for new models to be produced at its Uitenhage factory in 2017. Thus German investment is taking advantage of our trade access to the giant US market.
Leaving aside sentiment and history, why then does the ruling party here rail so against the West, even while celebrating its investment and faith in our economy? It simply lacks any logic. But then again, Voltaire also said “common sense is not so common”.
This article first appeared in The Times
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