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Mbeki’s neo-liberal vision of South Africa

This article is over 17 years, 4 months old
The latest speech by South Africa’s president reveals just how far the ANC has capitulated to corporate interests, writes Percy Ngonyama
Issue 1940

In his state of the nation address at the opening of parliament, South African president Thabo Mbeki once again revealed how out of touch with reality he is.

His prepared speech was read out in English — a language the majority of South Africans battle to understand. It was full of misleading statements and contradictions.

In recent years the annual state of the nation speech has become a Hollywood-style fashion extravaganza for fat cat parliamentarians and the elite on the ANC’s Black Economic Empowerment gravy train.

They arrived in expensive chauffer-driven German cars, showing off their upmarket clothes and stylish faces for the “big party”. And the “birthday boy” himself did not disappoint. He arrived in true Mbeki-Englishman style — a designer suit, shirt, shoes, and a tie to match.

Progressive groups in South Africa have warned the ANC that its economic policies are responsible for the appalling socio-economic conditions we see today.

But instead of tackling these problems, Mbeki’s government has gone on an arms spending spree of 60 billion rand (£5.3 billion). A further rearmament programme for the army is expected to cost the taxpayer an additional 10 billion rand (£880 million).

Mbeki is involved in several “peace efforts” across Africa. Yet the South African government is itself partially responsible for conflicts and instability in Africa.

South Africa continues to sell arms to oppressive regimes and countries at war, including all sides in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Both the US and Britain, on the eve of their illegal invasion of Iraq, signed contracts to purchase military technology from Denel, South Africa’s state owned arms manufacturer.

In his speech Mbeki claimed the South African economy is progressing. But this “progress” had no positive impact on ordinary people. Government statistics prove the gap between the rich and the poor has drastically increased in the past ten years.

Amid applause from the ANC dominated house, Mbeki declared that his government has successfully made available water and electricity to millions of South African households. This is a blatant lie, to put it bluntly.

As a result of the government’s privatisation and cost recovery policies, millions of South Africans have had their water and electricity cut off, or been evicted from their houses.

Mbeki attacked the global justice movement, which has exposed the negative impacts of the ANC’s policies on the poor.

And he reinforced the government’s apartheid era-like methods for dealing with opposing voices. Those who “protest and break things” will face the wrath of the security forces, he warned. Mbeki’s neo-liberalism cannot offer any solution to our problems.

Percy Ngonyama is a South African campaigner against the war in Iraq, and against arms spending

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