AFRIKAN FREE TRADE AGREEMENT
Afrikan nations signed a continental free-trade agreement at an African Union (AU) summit held in Niger last Sunday. The deal paves the way to create the biggest free-trade zone in the world. All AU members, except Eritrea, have signed the historic deal.
Since the formation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1963, there has been a yearning by many Afrikan leaders, chief among them Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana that Afrika should unite to undo the effects of the colonial borders that make Afrikans more vulnerable to exploitation by the imperialist forces. The OAU has developed into the African Union with the same mission, of uniting the continent. The free-trade deal is the most significant move in the realisation of true Afrikan unity. This is why this development should be welcomed by all who have the interests of Afrika and its people at heart.
The deal, expected to come into effect next July, will boost intra-Afrikan trade which currently stands at 16%, while trade between Afrikan countries and the European Union is at 65%. This is not an accident of history. When the colonialists landed in Afrika, they developed a trade infrastructure that will enable the colonising countries to plunder Afrika and its people of natural resources and other commodities for the benefit of mainly European countries. Although Afrika is largely politically free, the colonial architecture of the economy still largely remains intact. That is why it is easy to fly to London or Paris from many Afrikan capitals than to fly from Harare to Kinshasa. In fact, in many instances, the only way to travel between two Afrikan countries is to connect through London, Paris or Lisbon.
The inability of Afrikan countries to increase trade between themselves has contributed hugely in entrenching poverty and underdevelopment in the continent. Afrika’s trade deficit with Europe is the cause of the huge unemployment within the Afrikan continent. The poverty and hunger in Afrika are the key drivers that propel Afrikans to risk their lives crossing the Mediterranean sea into Europe for better economic prospects.
With increased intra-trade, more economic opportunities would be created within Afrika and many people would benefit. In other words, with the removal of duties and tariffs, it would be easier for Rwandan farmers who produce coffee to export it and sell it in South Africa. This would create more demand for the coffee producers and they will employ more people. Equally, South Africa can also identify products that are in demand in other parts of the continent and increase their production, thus also creating more jobs in the domestic economy.
When there are more economic opportunities throughout the continent, the problem of undocumented immigrants would be drastically reduced.
However, there are blind spots with the free-trade deal. With the removal of duties and tariffs, a local South African company can move its operations to a neighbouring country, which has a lower tax rate, but continue to produce the products mainly for the South African market. The relocation of the firm will reduce South Africa’s tax revenue and also cut jobs in South Africa.
The other possible blind spot could be people taking advantage of the free-trade zone on the continent to import cheap textile products from China into a country which has very low tariffs for Chinese imports. Once those products are in that country, they can be transported to the rest of the continent as if they were locally produced. For the free-trade zone to work, serious enforcement of the rules of engagement would be required throughout the continent.
The other challenge which may undermine the spirit of a free-trade zone is political instability and war. Countries that are at war or have huge parts of their territories under the control of rebels would be difficult to monitor so that all the players play according to the set rules of engagement. Also, the differences between the value of the currencies can seriously complicate transactions and can even undermine domestic economies in certain instances.
But the plain truth is that whatever the challenges that can be identified, the idea of a free-trade zone is great. This will create a market of more than 1,2 billion people on the continent. The deal will allow goods and services free passage throughout the continent. This can only be good.
But for Afrikans to get full benefits of the free-trade zone, they must increase their productive capacity. Afrikans should not just increase the networks of distributing products manufactured in Europe and China but should produce more quality products so that they get full benefits of the deal.
But for now, we can celebrate the signing of the deal as a major catalyst towards undoing the effects of colonialism.
RULING ELITE DIVISIONS BENEFIT THE NATION
Before the 2019 Elections many commentators told us that the calls for a united ANC by its leaders had to do with the threat of that organisation slipping out of power. The 2016 Local Government Elections had already provided evidence that the threat was real. The ANC lost the major Metros of Nelson Mandela, Tshwane and Johannesburg, while it had to scramble for a desperate coalition to cling onto Ekurhuleni.
It is in fact the real threat of losing power that forced some ruling party leaders to part ways and agree to offload their Noah from the boat. Jacob Zuma had been sacrificed to be that Noah whom the public and the voters blamed for not heeding the mandate to go to Nineveh but instead went to Tarshish. What the ruling party forgot was that they were all in the boat on a corrupt ride to Tarshish. It is for that reason that we reject the theory of “9 wasted years”, because all the 25 years remain wasted.
The masses had unleashed their power, or had taken back their power. For once they showed the ANC who had the power. The masses and the electorate had forced the ruling elite to fall apart. That was when we began to see the recommendations of former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela for a State Capture Judicial Commission no longer contested in court. That is also when we saw the litigation for Zuma to foot the bill for his legal defence no longer contested.
The divisions that the masses forced on the ruling party were beginning to yield positive results in terms of laying bare the content and details of corruption that has held the development of Black people at ransom. That is why the post-elections CR-NDZ divisions are a blessing in disguise for the citizens.
The arrogant defiance by Ace Magashule should not irritate the public because it is indirectly helping unlock the safes of corruption. The fallout between Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane and the CR faction should be a welcome development. Whether intended or not, Mkhwebane is doing well in polarising the forces in the ruling elite. Well, some have pointed out that Mkhwebane is herself part of the factions; and that she was appointed by Zuma to undo the effects of the actions of her predecessor on Zuma. This theory concludes that Mkhwebane was offended by the humiliating manner in which Zuma was bundled out of office. That is when she directed her “public protecting” teeth to the CR faction.
The fallout between Pravin Gordhan and the EFF will help expose the tax skeletons. The public needs to know whose accounts were shielded by SARS, if there were any. We need to know the tax shenanigans under the ruling elite. Ordinary citizens cannot be the only ones who pay, while the rich and the corrupt are protected in their tax evasion activities.
Mkhwebane must sink her teeth deeper into the neck of the President so that corrupt blood, if any, should spill publicly. Mkhwebane should help the public see if there is any dirt behind the Ramaphosa-Gordhan tango. Gordhan is doing well by angering Mkhwebane in his interdict papers against Mkhwebane’s remedial directives. Afterall, all these persons are somehow members of the ruling party.
There is hope that the corruption, money laundering and racketeering charges that Zuma is facing will now force him to actualise his threats of “spilling the beans”. Those beans should be rotten by now because he has been threatening to spill them from time immemorial. We need him to spill those beans so that others can spill theirs on him.
Zuma has threatened to reveal the names of people in his party who sold Black people out at CODESA, as well as the Arms Deal files. It is said that he has pointed out at the fact that ANC leaders had no source of income when they returned from exile, yet they lived in luxury because of mansions and other properties sponsored to them by the Openheimers, the Ruperts and the Rothchilds. The other factions should irritate Zuma enough to spill the beans. The opening of the jail doors should help us achieve that goal much earlier.
ARMY DEPLOYED TO WAGE WAR AGAINST DRUGS ON THE CAPE FLATS
Today Police Minister Bheki Cele announced during his Budget Speech that the Police will be working with the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to police drugs and gangsterism on the Cape Flats.
In 2018 Mitchell’s Plain alone recorded 28 676 reported crimes. 6000 of those crimes were violent. And of all those crimes, 4 930 had to do with the drug problem.
Children die in gangster crossfire, while learners who are part of the gangs take drugs and gangsterism to the school grounds where they shoot and kill one another in front of fellow learners. It goes without saying that learning is negatively affected in those circumstances.
The raping of women and girls is the order of the day. It is understandable that communities call for military intervention under such helplessness.
From the onset, let us correct the false narrative that gangsterism and drugs are exclusively a Cape Flats problem. The fact is that it is generally a Black Problem. It is to be found all over South Africa where poor Black people live.
It is concentrated in the townships and shacks. In recent times we have witnessed residents of the communities like Khayelitsha, Gugulethu, Soshanguve, Mamelodi, Atteridgeville and Westbury marching against gangsterism and drugs. We have seen similar community activities in areas like Hillbrow and Berea.
Rainbowists who like to force the thoughtless template of “black and white” where it doesn’t fit, may be itching to say that gangsterism and drugs affect both black and white communities. Where in the world is that white community?
It is not by accident that gangsterism and drugs are rife in the Black communities. It is by design. It was by the deliberate social engineering of colonialism and racism. It has been exposed that drugs were used by the settler-colonial regime to destroy the social fabric in the Black communities.
The apartheid regime was happy for so long as Black people were killing and raping one another. They were happy that Black people were terrorising one another to the extent that there was disorder and no schooling. Teenage pregnancy was ensuring the increasing school dropout rate and deepening of poverty. All the regime was ready to do was jail the Black young people and ensure that they degenerated into hard criminals who would be deployed back into the Black communities to continue the reign of terror.
Those who know are agreed that gangsterism and drugs thrive where there is high unemployment, abject poverty and overcrowding. And that is exactly the Black Condition. Gangsterism and drugs are a reflection of the socioeconomic problems of the Black communities.
How does government hope to solve a socioeconomic problem with a military intervention? How sustainable is that? Does it perhaps have to do with the government’s empty show-off of pretending something is happening when nothing effective is happening?
A socioeconomic problem should be solved with sustained socioeconomic interventions. The schooling problem should be attended to. No child must be in the streets during school time. The unemployment and poverty problem should be addressed in earnest. That goes with dealing with the apartheid spatial development problem. Shacks and RDP houses must be removed from the vocabulary of human settlements.
The deployment of the army on the Cape Flats is nothing more than a short-term intervention that will never solve the gangsterism and drugs problem in the Black communities. A caring government should stop playing games with the lives and future of Black people. Colonialism and racism did that with sufficient ruthlessness for a democratic government to want to repeat the same.
SALUTE TO MANDLAZI
AZAPO conveys heartfelt condolences to the family of veteran actress Nomhle Nkonyeni who died in a PE hospital at the age of 77.
She was the mainstay of the Black arts. Her outstanding creative contribution was recognised when she was in May this year awarded with the Order of Ikhamanga in Silver.
The outspoken matriarch spoke her mind a week after such honour:
“It is sad that the government is taking us performers for granted. Sorry, I am not going to waste my vote on any party. Twenty-five years later we were given empty promises by the same government and to this day nothing has changed.”
Aggrey Street in New Brighton is to be renamed after Nomhle Nkonyeni. She expressed joy at that gesture. She said she had always been wondering who are the people like Gratten and Aggrey after whom the streets of New Brighton in PE were named.
Many political activists will remember that artists played a pivotal role in the Azanian Revolution. More so in the era of the Black Consciousness Movement where the political and cultural values of Black Power were in the ascendancy.
That was the era of outstanding BC artists like Molefi Pheto, Ingoapele Madingoane, Ujebe Masokoana, James Matthews, Sipho Mabuse, Khaya Mqhayisa and many others.
Rest in peace MaNdlazi.
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To print and read the pdf version, please click here ⇒ AZAPO Voice Volume 2 Issue 25
ONE AZANIA ! ONE NATION !