Source: Pixabay by oldeani0

Caught in the economic and political crossfire of the East and the West, South Africa must stand up for the Global South.

It’s official. The world has entered into a strange, yet familiar place in time and history.

We’re all engulfed in what’s being called a ‘post-Cold War Cold War’, or in other words, a revival of the Cold War but with different dynamics.

As many history students would be keen to point out, they’d argue that the initial Cold War never ended, but transformed, leading us to where we are now. I’m willing to argue that with the return of nuclear rhetoric, a proxy war in Ukraine, global information surveillance, and fractured political relations between the US and Russia, we’re in a dangerous and unpredictable, new Cold War. A sort of ‘yet to be defined’ Cold War, and if the G7 summit of 2023 is anything to go by, it seems that this one won’t be so ‘cold’, with leaders of the G7 openly antagonising Russia and China.

Where does South Africa fit in?

Where South Africa fits into this new political zeitgeist, and the decisions the ANC make with regard to BRICS and their stance on Russia will define the history of the global south for centuries.

During the previous Cold War, South Africa’s trajectory as a nation was actively shaped by the U.S, U.K, and U.S.S.R’s rivalry, with the U.S and U.K actively funding and promoting the National Party’s economic system up until the late 1980s, whilst the U.S.S.R was funding and training revolutionaries who stood up against the Apartheid regime, both at home and in exile.

As protests and radical movements grew in size and diversity, the West was investing in corporate infrastructure and maintaining the resources they secured during colonialism.

As South African historians are well aware, as a nation we were standing on the precipice of a civil war between the state and the revolutionary parties. Those same historians will then tell you of the inevitable. War was avoided. The Apartheid regime was over. The U.S.S.R collapsed. Sanctions put on the country were lifted. The ANC became the ruling party and South Africa, despite the odds, became a fully fledged democracy.

South Africa’s unique relationship with Time and History

However, South Africa has a unique relationship with Time and History. As all citizens, businesses, and institutions were working for the future of an economically stable and fair society. Leftover problems of Apartheid and Colonialism in the country’s past had grown simultaneously too, exacerbating crime, corruption, racism, classism, and poverty.

When the ANC took over the government in 1994, there was an incredible amount of work to be done on the nation from all perspectives.

How would the ANC alleviate the skills gap in the job market, whilst simultaneously expanding on infrastructure?

How could the ANC eradicate the high-level illiteracy rates of the African, Coloured, and Indian populations whilst also finding the funds to expand the education sector?

How do you re-educate the victims of the Bantu education system within ten years, and where do you find the teachers within your borders if they themselves need to be educated for over twelve years?

Where would the ANC find the funds to do so, when the Apartheid regime was effectively bankrupt by the time of the 1994 elections?

Although we were finally free from Apartheid, it was clear that we were still a long way from true liberation.

Fast forward to 2023.

The United Kingdom has left the European Union. The Arab Spring has left Libya, and Syria and Lebanon are in dire straits. Digital currencies exist. The climate crisis is nearing a critical state. The Covid-19 Pandemic has come and gone. South Africa’s enduring energy crisis is reaching levels of disaster. Russia has invaded Ukraine. World economies have been turned upside down, and political tensions between countries are rising rapidly worldwide.

Once again, South Africa has been caught in the riptide of global politics here too, as the neutral stance on the Russia-Ukraine war taken by the ANC has effectively angered the West, causing our local economy further grief.

Most issues that the ANC inherited were almost too paradoxical to solve immediately. Although the ANC was proud to establish the country as a Social Democracy in 2004, it could not successfully initiate national programs that espoused communist or socialist ideals, as unfortunately, both the United States of America and the United Kingdom owned (and still do) the necessary valuable resources that could bankroll the country’s recovery. That, and the U.S.S.R had collapsed. Effectively, the democracy and the economic future of the newly democratic Republic of South Africa were trapped between a rock and a hard place from its very inception. This gave the ANC government a raw deal, which has led to mass borrowing from the IMF and the World Bank, and subsequently, years of rampant corruption and gross mismanagement within state entities.

Simply put, if South Africa had full agency over her most valuable resources, such as gold, diamonds, platinum, and natural water reserves, without the pressure to abide by the West’s economic and political postures, we would be looking at the Singapore of Africa. Sadly, the West has ensured that this could never happen.

Enter BRICS.

The buzzword of 2023. The acronym, BRICS, which stands for Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa has come into the spotlight as South Africa aims to host the 15th BRICS Summit, with the possibility of Vladimir Putin making an appearance alongside world leaders from each respective country.

The Summit looks to be an era-defining Summit, as talks of a new currency to combat the dollar’s hegemony of the global economy have become a focal point, and the Rand’s constant dependence on the dollar and the pound have ensured the currency never improves, no matter how rich our nation is in resources.

As the Summit draws near, South Africa is beginning to look further East for business, and I theorise that the frosty relations we currently have with the U.S and our complex relations with the U.K are only going to worsen, not to mention the current tensions we have with their ownership of our resources. For a country that is desperate for economic agency, BRICS looks to be a way out. However, South Africa must gain this agency on its own.

Source: YouTube Screenshot

As we speak, China has pledged to send vast amounts of Solar panels to ease the energy crisis, and ships from as far as Turkey have docked in Ngqura, close to Gqeberha, with the aim of providing electricity through their ship-mounted power plants. Denmark and the Netherlands have signed a $1 Billion deal to develop green Hydrogen plants that will be exporting hydrogen to the European Union. The specificities of all these deals, and whether or not South Africa will be exploited once again, remains to be seen.

South Africa is a historical anomaly.

South Africa’s history, cultures and languages, economic development, current socio-economic outlook as well as it’s vast societal problems are hard to define the nation by. Much of her history has been shaped by colonialism, apartheid, health crises, and massive economic interference by Western and Eastern powers, not to forget the marginalised and forgotten histories of the indigenous populations that preceded all of the above.

The only other nation that can compare itself to South Africa, and even then there are differences, is Brazil. Unlike Brazil, our nation is far younger and is still trying to establish its place in world politics.

As economies and world powers shift, perhaps there will come a day when world history is shaped by South Africa, and not the reverse we all already know.

Published by Joël Leonard

An aspiring writer and creative, a South African and fellow human, journeying through the world sentence by sentence.

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