Le Texte de la semaine

22 06 2008

Politics and Public Policy in Southern Africa – Southern Africa in the new millennium.
Pamela Francesca Samantha MELONI
Student number 206520810

Wednesday, September 05th, 2007

( in Leçon 9, Steve Biko et l’Apartheid)

In their article Ahwireng-Obeng and McGowan analyze the position of South African economy within the world and make predictions for its future. In the first part of the article, they focus particularly in the role of South Africa within the Southern African region, and Africa as a whole. They analyse the actions and position of the newly democratic South Africa in the continent and demonstrates that in the field of trade, infrastructures, telecommunications and investment the Republic is increasingly hegemonic. In fact South Africa exports a lot in Southern Africa (the eleven other members of SADC are the most important for the Republic) and the trade with Africa as a whole is increasing rapidly, making the continent the largest regional export market for South Africa. Countries such as Botswana and Lesotho are totally dependent on South Africa for regional trade. It is important to note that this trade is highly unequal: in fact South Africa exports a lot more to the rest of SACU than it imports from them. Moreover most SADC countries are dependent upon South African transportation network for their trade with South Africa and with the rest of the world. Regarding telecommunications, South Africa is unrivalled within Southern Africa: its level of connectivity is even as good as most European countries. Another important fact is the constantly growing and aggressive expansion of South African businesses into the rest of Africa. In fact, all over the region and the continent there are an increasing number of South African investments (banks, hotels…). The main problem with that is the fact that they expand at the expense of local producers and manufacturers. They conclude by saying that there is a polarization between South Africa (which is industrialized) and the rest of the SADC (which is mainly agricultural).
The second part of the article deals with the hegemony of South Africa within a world-system perspective. According to the theory of World-Systems (which distinguishes three zones of economic activity, namely the core, the periphery and the semi-periphery) South Africa is a semi-peripheral state because it is both exploited (by the UE) and exploiter (Southern Africa). Moreover, because of South Africa superiority in economy and technology the authors argue that South Africa can be described as being a Northern semi-peripheral power surrounded by Southern peripheries. In other words South Africa fits the role of a semi-peripheral member of the world system. As such it is supported by important core organizations such as the G7. The authors then try to understand if the country is using its power as a regional partner, or as a regional hegemon. According to them the Republic is more a selfish hegemon in the SADC region.

In her article, Linda Freeman focuses on the controversial support given by President Thabo Mbeki’s government to Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe. This support is a paradox as it goes against Mbeki’s project of an African Renaissance and seriously challenges Western support for NEPAD. Moreover Mbeki and Mugabe don’t even share the same vision for the continent (Mugabe is not a supporter of the African Renaissance) and their macro-economic policy are different (Mugabe is not excited about NEPAD). Freeman then explains the reasons behind this support. Firstly, the decision has been made because of Mbeki desire to respect and backed the continental opinion. In fact many African leaders, intellectuals and individuals outside Zimbabwe strongly support Mugabe’s policies. This position ensures that South Africa is now seen as a truly African power (not one dominated by Whites’ interest). Secondly, Mbeki argued that Zimbabwe is a sovereign country and so there is little that it can do about the present crisis. This is not true because the Republic has the means to stop the violence in Zimbabwe. The third reason comes from the fact that the South African government seems to be incapable to articulate a cohesive strategy on the matter. Fourthly this support can be traced back to the struggle for liberation from white minority-rule in the region. In this respect the South African government feels a link with Mugabe’s policies. The author then analyses the impact of the Zimbabwean crisis into South Africa. Firstly, there was a fear that what was happening to Zimbabwe will serve as a model among poor black South Africans and give them ideas to do the same. This has brought the question of land reform as an imperative in the political agenda of South Africa as well.
Another important factor is that the question of Zimbabwe has divided the members of the triple alliance (ANC; the Congress of South African Trade Unions and the South African Communist Party). In fact the COSATU and the SACP strongly disapproved the government’s position on Zimbabwe. Moreover the government was also criticized by senior political leaders within the ANC, leaders of opposition political parties, civil society, and the press in South Africa. However, despite all these critics the government did not change is line of conduct regarding Zimbabwe. Another important consequence to the crisis is the number of Zimbabweans who are coming to South Africa and other neighbouring countries, leading to other issues (crime, unemployment…) Finally Mbeki’s position has put into serious question the concept of a ‘rainbow nation’ and the vision of a non-racial South Africa.

In his article, Arrigo Pallotti, focuses on the SADC organization and its economic strategy since the early 1990s. His main preoccupation is the trade liberalisation promoted by the organisation within Southern Africa during the last decade and he wants to demonstrate that the policy taken by the SADC regarding this issue is a failure. To demonstrate its thesis he analyses the way through which the SADCC became the SADC in 1992 and demonstrates that the Treaty of Windhoek was not well adopted. To begin with this Treaty was not clear about its objectives and functions: little was said regarding the line of conduct that will be adopted by the SADC (if it was going to adopt a development or market strategy). Moreover the SADC policy did not present any radical changes but rather follow the already existing tactics regarding economic regionalism in the developing world. Another important agreement for the organization is the SADC Trade Protocol of 1996. It called for the gradual removal of trade barriers among the SADC member states over an eight year period. However the negotiations which were supposed to give more details regarding the implementation of the Protocol were finalized only in 1998. This is due to a number of issues and inter-state tensions among the SADC members, the most important one being the issue of rules of origin. As a result the final ratification and implementation of the Protocol was constantly postponed and was even about to be cancelled. It also put serious doubt among members vis-à-vis South Africa and its ambitions in the region. These tensions surrounding the trade protocol show that the trade liberalisation is not able to promote equitable and sustainable development in the region. Another example of failure is the fact that since 1996 SADC member states have tried to define a new industrialisation strategy for Southern Africa to complement the regional trade liberalisation process. Two drafts were rejected and the actual one is still not satisfying.
Thus, during the last decade, the SADC members have been unable to reach an agreement to develop a common strategy for the development of economic independence in the region.
Finally the author focuses on the trade imbalance among Southern African states. At present South Africa is still economically hegemonic in the region. It is important to note that South African investments in the Southern region of Africa have not been equal. In fact, in the period 1997-2001, South Africa has mainly invested in Mauritius and Mozambique.
Pallotti concludes that the SADC policy of liberalisation of inter-state economic relations have done nothing but accentuate the polarisation of economic development in the SADC region during the 1990s. Instead of promoting equality and developing the economy of SADC members, the policy has helped mainly South Africa which was already hegemonic in the region.

Freeman, L (2005) South Africa’s Zimbabwe Policy: Unravelling the Contradictions.
JCAS Vol.23 No. 2. pp147-172

McGowan P.J and Ahwireng-Obeng F (1999 Partner or Hegemon? South Africa in Africa. Parts 1&2. Journal of Contemporary African Studies, Volume 16 Nos. 1&2, January and July 1998.

Pallotti, A (2004) SADC: A Development Community without a Development Policy? Review of African Political Economy Vol 31. No. 101 pp.513-531.




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