Are we supposed to take seriously the international relations chapter of the ANC’s National General Council discussion documents?

I ask this remembering a conversation I had with the great Charlie Rangel, he of the Rangel Amendment which stopped US companies deducting taxes paid to the government of PW Botha from what they owed Uncle Sam.

The congressman from Harlem and I spoke at the 1988 Democratic convention in Atlanta. The platform the party adopted for its presidential nominee Michael Dukakis to run on that year pledged a nigh hermetic embargo of South Africa, well beyond the 1987 Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act and Rangel’s own initiative.

“For real?” I asked. He laughed. “Goodness, no! Nobody pays the slightest attention to the platform.” Platforms, he intimated, were things to keep party activists happy and out of the grown-ups’ hair.

Here’s hoping the same is true of the NGC discussion documents, certainly as they relate to foreign policy. Continue reading “Seriously?”


A better Brand SA

With the appointment of Kingsley Makhubela as its new captain, Brand South Africa leaves the serried ranks of public institutions whose CEOs are acting.

Holding the record for longevity of service at Brand SA – I lasted 12 and half years as US country manager – I continue to take a morbid interest in the fortunes of this awkward duckling now nestled uncomfortably in Faith Muthambi’s ministry of truth.  From experience and the public record (budget documents, strategic plans, portfolio committee reports and the organisation’s own work product), I’d say that if Mr Makhubela truly wants to make a difference, rather than simply be there at Davos and the like, he has a slog ahead of him.

Here’s the basic problem.  Brand SA’s mandate is a mile wide while its capacity to carry it out – budget, marketplace credibility and political and institutional clout – is an inch thin.

Brand SA, it says in Treasury’s 2015 Estimates of National Expenditure, “is charged with building the brand reputation of the country in order to improve its global competitiveness and better position South Africa in the world, as well as promoting active citizenry and social cohesion across society.”

That is a ludicrously tall and scattershot order. Continue reading “A better Brand SA”

AGOA and the Dinosaurs

Rob Davies, the minister of trade and industry, is a member of the South African Communist Party’s central committee whose collective signature is on an article in the current African Communist. In it we learn that the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which helped SA run a $2 billion trade surplus with the US last year, is a tool devised by newly confident “monopoly capital” to force neo-liberal policies down the throats of SA’s working class.

“Imperialist” America, say Mr Davies and his friends — prime exhibits all in SA’s Jurassic Park of failed ideology — are “pushing South Africa very hard” by attaching “conditionalities” to AGOA’s just enacted 10-year renewal.

The SACP dinosaurs acknowledge “the US is not necessarily keen to drop its AGOA relationship with South Africa”. On that, at least, they are correct. Shakier, though, is the logic on which they base their conclusion. Call it Sino-manic infantilism. Continue reading “AGOA and the Dinosaurs”