Socialist Worker

‘We are here to fight, not beg’ — Africa in revolt against the G8

by Trevor Ngwane, chair of the Anti-Privatisation Forum, South Africa
Issue No. 1958

Demonstration against the Iraq war in Pretoria, South Africa

Demonstration against the Iraq war in Pretoria, South Africa

I am coming from Johannesburg to Edinburgh to be part of the movement confronting the G8 leaders. People from across the world will stand together in solidarity—fighting the battle to end poverty and exploitation.

It’s time for justice. It’s time for action and for change, not more honeyed words which lead nowhere. We have had enough of plans which promise a fresh start and then, within months, are revealed as grossly inadequate.

Let nobody say that we cannot make a difference when we act together. The mass mobilisations at previous G8 meetings, and against the war in Iraq, have already scared the men behind the barbed wire stockades.

They can no longer arrange their summits without hiding behind riot police and arsenals of tear gas.

There is also another great power that can humble the G8. It is the power of those who recently took to the streets of Bolivia against the theft of their resources, of those who marched through the cities of South Africa this week for jobs and economic justice, of those whose anti-war protests brought London, Rome and Madrid to a halt.

One of the great joys for those of us in Africa is to see people in Europe and the US fight their own leaders. Every one of you who joins the demonstrations at the G8 or walks out from your school to protest is a comrade in our struggle. Let us all march in Edinburgh and at Gleneagles.

Our pressure has forced Tony Blair and others to say that they are taking action over debt, trade and aid.

But the G8’s agenda for Africa is not our agenda. The plans which have been produced so far are to throw a few crumbs to Africans while continuing to loot from the continent’s people. They throw us pennies and steal pounds.

And all the money that comes from the G8 countries is linked to conditions. Italy demands that we buy their products with the “aid” they provide and Britain wants us to privatise services and follow the advice of consultants with a free market agenda.

France favours those who back its neo-colonialist policies in Africa and the US checks to see if you are signed up to the “war on terror”.

Must those who are bound in chains agree to implement neo-liberalism

before these chains can be broken?

The package on offer from the G8 is full of holes, and its failure will be measured in the deaths of millions of children, the denial of a proper education for hundreds of millions and the spread of Aids.

I am not impressed by speeches about global justice from Bush and Blair—the murderers of 100,000 people in Iraq, the men who have unleashed the horrors of war and may do so again unless we stop them.

There is much talk about the need for democracy in Africa before change can come.

I have spent my whole life fighting for democracy and need no lessons from the G8 leaders.

I remember Margaret Thatcher, who Blair so resembles in his policies and attitudes. She was the apartheid hangmen’s firm friend.

I remember as well that many of the dictatorships in Africa were installed and nurtured by Western governments.

And when refugees flee these regimes they find a steel-cold welcome at the borders of Europe.

Yes, we do need democracy in Africa, but let us not use that as an excuse to deny life saving resources.

If the G8 leaders really want to bring democracy then let them consult with the grassroots of African society — the trade unions, the community groups, the women’s groups and the African Social Forum. Genuine democratic change will come from the base of society, not from the top down.

But the only grassroots organisations the likes of Bush and Blair listen to are those that support the G8’s proposals — organisations that can be brought out in order to boost the credentials of imperialism.

In truth we should not be having to argue about the conditions for, or the extent of, debt cancellation. We should be discussing the scale of reparations that the G8 governments owe to Africa.

The extreme wealth of Western banks and multinationals is based on the plunder carried out through slavery and colonialism, and which continues under modern capitalism.

In South Africa we want corporations like Barclays, who made so much money under apartheid, to pay to repair some of the damage they helped to cause.

I am not very interested in sighs, tears and apologies for the present state of Africa from those who continue to hold it in a vice.

Oppression and exploitation is a tree of injustice. It is not enough to pluck a leaf or snip a branch. We must lay the axe to the roots.

The enemies of Africa are also your enemies in Europe and the US — the same multinationals that rob you and drive down the conditions under which you have to work, often by threatening to move production abroad.

The same governments that keep a stranglehold on Africa also implement anti-union laws at home, and side with the bosses at every key moment.

Truly the lives of tens of millions of people depend on what we can do. The US spends $420 billion every year on its military.

Let that money be used to save the lives of people across the Third World.

We cannot leave the G8 leaders to set the limits of justice.

Emancipation is not a right that can be curtailed in favour of the interests of the few. Let us roar our message of defiance. Into struggle next week, and let us maintain our unity in the future as well.

Trevor Ngwane will be speaking at the G8 Alternatives event in Edinburgh and Marxism 2005 in central London.

Voices from Africa

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Sat 2 Jul 2005, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1958
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