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BRICS Under Attack: The Empire’s Destabilizing Hand Reaches Into South Africa

by Eric Draitser, via MintPressNews

Major protests have gripped South Africa in recent months as political forces have emerged to give voice to a growing discontent with the government and ruling party. Beneath the surface of these demonstrations organized around legitimate grievances, however, there’s an undercurrent of political manipulation.

South Africa and its ruling African National Congress (ANC) party have been targeted for destabilization due to the country’s burgeoning relationship with China and other non-Western nations, most obviously typified by South Africa’s inclusion in BRICS, the association of the five major emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Last year, for example, China surpassed the United States and European Union as South Africa’s largest trade partner, and the ANC has been hard at work promoting further trade cooperation. Answering questions in the National Assembly, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa explained: “We trade more effectively with China because the relationship is based on win-win; mutual benefit that they can get out of the relationship and that we can get out the relationship.”

But recent protests against the ANC government have threatened the ruling tripartite coalition of the ANC, along with the South African Communist Party and Congress of South African Trade Unions.

A number of groups on the left such as the Economic Freedom Fighters, led by former ANC youth leader Julius Malema, and the National Union of Metalworkers, have taken part in the protests touched off by student demonstrations against university fees.

At the same time, however, Western-backed opposition forces led by the Democratic Alliance have positioned themselves as leaders and beneficiaries of the anti-government movement.

The DA, a center-right liberal political party now fronted by “South Africa’s Obama,” Mmusi Maimane, is lauded by Western financial interests. The American Chamber of Commerce, for example, has consistently heaped praise on DA as the way forward for South Africa.

When Maimane delivered a widely publicized speech at a May 2015 business breakfast hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce, he stated:

“While China may have overtaken the US as South Africa’s largest trade partner in volume, the US remains an incredibly important partner for our future growth and development.

I refer to ‘future growth and development’ for under the lacklustre and confused leadership of the ANC, our economy has failed to reach its true potential.”  

A careful reading of the subtext offers a clearer understanding of what Maimane is implying. By noting that China has overtaken the U.S. as South Africa’s largest trade partner, he is directly tying the ANC and its “lackluster and confused leadership” to the close relationship with China.

In other words, the DA represents “the future” — that is, a future in which the U.S. is able to reclaim its status as South Africa’s dominant trade partner. This certainly would not have been lost on the attendees at a Chamber of Commerce breakfast. (It should be recalled that the Chamber of Commerce is traditionally seen as the main arm of U.S. economic power projection in the Global South — just ask any leader in South and Central America.)

The Wall Street-London connection runs deep

But the ties to the political and financial establishment of neoliberal capital and the U.S. empire do not stop at the American Chamber of Commerce. In 2014 it came to light that one of the principal financiers behind the DA and its short-lived attempt at unity with the centrist Agang SA party, led by anti-Apartheid figure Mamphela Ramphele, was billionaire Nathan Kirsh.

As the Business Times noted in March 2014:

“Mr Kirsh said he provided a ‘marginal amount’ of funding to both the DA and Agang SA … but denied bringing the parties together.

‘I believe there’s got to be an opposition to the government, but I wasn’t involved in the marriage. … When Mamphela [Ramphele] came to me, she represented what could be good, credible opposition and I gave her some money. When [leader of the DA] Helen Zille came to me, she had already shown her ability to put things together and the [Western] Cape runs perhaps better than any of the other provinces,’ said Kirsh.

Zille and Ramphele announced early in February that the short-lived plan to join forces, and for Ramphele to stand as the DA’s presidential candidate, was over.

At the time, Ms Ramphele was quoted as saying ‘a donor pushed the DA and Agang SA together.’”

Kirsh, the business tycoon who heads a multinational business empire controlled through his Kirsh Holdings Group, is one of the richest men in the world, having made his fortune during the Apartheid regime in South Africa and in a variety of other ventures since then.

Aside from his dodgy past, Kirsh is well known to have untold billions in assets and companies domiciled in tax havens from the British Virgin Islands to Liberia. Perhaps most notorious among his recent money-making projects has been the massive contracts awarded to his company Magal Security Systems by the Israeli government to provide electronic fences and security systems for the apartheid wall Israel constructed, and which has been almost universally condemned as illegal.

In fact, Kirsh is well known as being very close to some of the leading institutions of Western finance capital, as evidenced by his choice of Bradley Fried to oversee Kirsh Group. As noted by Bloomberg, Fried will oversee “the management company that holds Kirsh’s disparate assets, which include two U.S. wholesale grocery businesses, commercial and residential real estate, and private equity investments on four continents.” Fried is a member of the Bank of England’s Court of Directors and a well-connected executive in circles of high finance.

Fried “takes over [Kirsh Group] from Ron Sandler, the former CEO of Lloyd’s of London who Kirsh said will remain working as a trustee and adviser to the family.” It should be noted that Sandler, who served as chairman of the infamous Northern Rock, had close ties with former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, himself a creature of the City of London.

Between Kirsh’s connections to the highest circles of finance capital in the U.S. empire, and his lucrative business dealings with Apartheid South Africa and the current apartheid state of Israel, it should be crystal clear that Kirsh is no progressive. So what’s he doing financing the allegedly “liberal-progressive” opposition in South Africa? To put it simply, Kirsh is making yet another investment that he hopes will pay massive political and financial dividends.

Soft power projects from pro-DA think tanks

Another source of soft power projection from the U.S. empire are the think tanks that uphold the neoliberal DA as the future for South Africa. One example is Legatum Institute, which has published numerous papers criticizing the ANC and calling for “democratization” and “plurality of voices” in the political sphere.

In an innocuously titled 2014 report, “South Africa and the Pursuit of Inclusive Growth,” Legatum noted:

Together opposition voters constituted just over 34 percent of the national vote. The ANC is understandably proud of its achievements in attracting such a large proportion of votes. However, the weakness of the opposition has reduced the pressure on the ANC to win electoral votes on the basis of its performance in government. It also means that at the national level the ANC’s commitment to democracy has not been put to the ultimate test: the transfer of power to a victorious opposition.”

While the report notes the democratic nature of South Africa’s election, the implied argument, couched in the typically duplicitous rhetoric of Western think tanks, is that the ANC should be unseated from power in order for a truly democratic South Africa to emerge. The report, it should be noted, was edited and overseen by the notoriously anti-Russia, anti-China, anti-BRICS, neoliberal Anne Applebaum, who has repeatedly used her pen and face in the service of the empire’s agenda. (Interesting to note also is that Applebaum is married to Radek Sikorski, the vehemently pro-NATO former foreign minister of Poland.)

One example of Applebaum’s anti-Russia outlook is her widely read 2014 essay in the New York Review of Books, “How He [Putin] and His Cronies Stole Russia,” which argued the typical neoliberal finance capital line that Russia was on the right path in the 1990s under the stewardship of the U.S.- and Wall Street-backed Russian President Boris Yeltsin and his gaggle of thieves, but that Putin and his “kleptocratic KGB apparatchiks” seized control of Russia for their own purposes.

Such nonsense, in addition to Applebaum’s unmitigated warmongering in matters relating to Syria and Libya, demonstrates just what sort of slant exists in her report on South Africa.

Another important element in this equation is an understanding of exactly what the Legatum Institute really is and who funds it. As Pando’s Mark Ames wrote in 2015:

“Legatum turns out to be a project of the most secretive billionaire vulture capital investor you’ve (and I’d) never heard of: Christopher Chandler, a New Zealander who, along with his billionaire brother Richard Chandler, ran one of the world’s most successful vulture capital funds

Brother Christopher Chandler took his billions to Dubai, where he launched Legatum Capital, and, in 2007, the Legatum Institute … The Legatum Institute’s motto, displayed proudly on its homepage, reads ‘Prosperity Through Revitalising Capitalism and Democracy.’

… [T]he Chandler brothers were the largest foreign portfolio investors in Russia throughout the 1990s into the first half of the 2000s, including the largest foreign investors in natural gas behemoth Gazprom. …

From what I’ve learned, the Chandlers make buckets of fast money by buying into totally depressed and corrupt emerging markets when everyone else is too afraid to, driving up the price of their assets by making a lot of noise about corporate governance and corruption, and then selling out when those investments tick up during what look like to outsiders as principled battles over corporate governance issues. In other words, a form of extreme green-mailing.”

Applebaum’s official title with Legatum is “director of the Transitions Forum,” “a series of projects that examine the challenges and opportunities of radical political and economic change.” No wonder the think tank’s prized propagandist is so gung-ho in her hatred of all things Putin and Russia: Her bosses were directly targeted by Putin and the Russian government as it sought to reverse the “vulturization” of Russia’s economy carried out by Western capitalists like the Chandlers.

It seems then that Legatum is part of the same anti-Russian, anti-BRICS network of Western NGOs and think tanks that includes the International Republican Institute, Freedom House, the National Democratic Institute, and the National Endowment for Democracy.  And it should come as no surprise that Russia and many other countries have moved so strongly to curtail their presence and influence in their respective countries (this author has written detailed analyses of the political significance of the NGO laws in Russia and China).

 Powerful forces aligning

Make no mistake, though: Institutional issues such as corruption and political and economic disenfranchisement do indeed exist in South Africa, and these must be addressed. The challenge against the ANC from leftist forces who seek wealth and land redistribution, socialization of the economy, and other traditional policies associated with leftist politics is to be welcomed. That challenge could likely push the ANC to make much needed policy changes, including moving further away from neoliberal capitalism, as it broadens its engagement with the non-Western world.

However, one should not miss the forest for the trees. There are powerful forces aligning behind the DA and other Western proxy political forces in order to destabilize a key partner of the BRICS project.

 


Eric Draitser is a geopolitical analyst based in New York and the founder of StopImperialism.

 

10 Comments

  1. Hi. First, I just found your website, and I think it’s amazing, one of the few sane places on the web!

    Anyway, I’m a South African, and I don’t think this article by Draitser is quite correct. I’ll try to keep it brief. By the way, I don’t support any political party, for the past several elections I have been spoiling my ballot in protest.

    The general perception, especially outside South Africa, is that the ruling party, the ANC, is a leftist, progressive party, but that is not the case. Sure, if you read their documents and charter, that’s the impression, but in practice they follow neo-liberal economics. One of the main opposition leaders has said numerous times that the DA and the ANC have pretty much the same economic policies.

    I’ve followed the student protests quite closely. By and large, they are genuine protest by students who can’t afford to go to university (that is the main, but not only issue the students are protesting about). There has been a few rumours of “third forces” (i.e. manipulators) behind some protesters, but none whatsoever that implicate the DA in any way, and you can be sure the ruling party and other opposition parties would be quick to point out the DA’s involvement if it actually existed.

    Most of these rumours actually come from the government (the ANC) and the universities, so as to denigrate and dismiss the protesters. The fact is, the students are protesting that the government is not funding education enough. And the people who have been insinuated as being the “third force” are actually the leftist opposition parties that Draitser alludes too.

    Also, I think, for the moment anyway, that the BRICS thing is a little overblown. I’m sure the West is watching them closely, and plotting and planning behind the scenes, but it’s complicated. For example, Brazil was represented at the recent BRICS meeting by Michel Temer. The coup in Brazil was because of the Worker’s Party PT, rather than BRICS. It’s well documented that India has let western multinationals destroy their local farming industry. Etc.

    I’m sure the West is worried about BRICS, but I’m equally sure they have no interest in overthrowing the government in South Africa. Why would they, we are already a client state of the west?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I just heard on the radio that USAID has been funding the ANC (the ruling party) since they came to power in 1994. I think that tells you everything you need to know!

      Like

  2. John Hunter says

    Although it is true that there are ongoing riots in south Africa Protests lead to the destruction of 23 schools in South Africa’s Limpopo Province (11 May 2016)

    See: http://www.ei-ie.org/en/news/news_details/3957

    While many are engaged in campaigns demanding building and improvement of schools, economic saboteurs and agitators still act as if they live in the past as if they are fighting a minority white government and wish to destroy infrastructure to rebuild a new South Africa based on black nationalism, however there is a black majority African Nationalist government for decades in power now and they burn the few available schools which remained the only hope of the development of African communities and society according to statement from the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union.

    South Africa it has many laws, but Law enforcement is poor in South Africa. They seem to answer every problem by making more rules and laws to address it, but the implementation of these laws is lackadaisical, half-hearted and lacking any enthusiasm or initiative, that is if they ever respond at all to a call. They will merely record details if there is an insurance claim or for a court case to give you a case number but hardly respond to halt or pursue criminals.
    Not surprisingly for example on 22 April 2016 in the agricultural town of Vryheid reportedly 15 armed men with AK47s mowed down the two farmers of the same family Billy van Rooyen and Ronnie Lombard and also injured a third family member, who survived. The police described the terrorist attack as ‘senseless, without any motive’.

    Try to protect wildlife on a farm with “gangs” like these going around, they act more like terrorist groups.
    You must pay for a private armed response security firm even some police stations have armed response security.
    The country has a corrupt president Zuma. Corruption in South Africa includes the private use of public resources, bribery and improper favouritism.

    South Africa has a robust anti-corruption framework, but laws are inadequately enforced. Two forms of corruption are particularly prevalent in South Africa; tenderpreneurism and BEE fronting.
    And sadly this hampers even wildlife protection and policing as its tentacles spread through all aspects of society at all levels.

    A tenderpreneur is an individual who enriches themselves through corrupting the awarding of government tender contracts, mostly based on personal connections and corrupt relationships.
    BEE-fronting is an abuse of the rules governing Black Economic Empowerment (BEE), where qualifying persons are given a seat on the Board of Directors of a company while having no decision-making power in the company, in order to qualify the company for government contracts in terms of BEE.

    Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Act (Act 53 of 2003) (BEE) is a racially selective programme launched by the South African government to redress the inequalities of Apartheid by giving certain previously disadvantaged groups (Blacks, Coloureds, Indians, and Chinese who arrived before 1994) of South African citizens economic privileges previously not available to them.

    Since race is the overriding factor Archbishop Desmond Tutu warned that South Africa is sitting on a “powder keg,” Archbishop Desmond Tutu argued that Black Economic Empowerment only serves a few black elite, leaving millions in “dehumanising poverty”.

    Inkatha Freedom Party leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi is a strong critic of BEE and supports this view. He has stated that “the government’s reckless implementation of the affirmative action policy is forcing many white people to leave the country in search of work, creating a skills shortage crisis”.

    Related to this is Cadre deployment and employment, which is an official ANC policy.
    Sadly although BEE (Black Economic Empowerment) is supposed to address the wrongs, injustices of the past and address inequality yet it is abused by a ruling black elite that allowed a corrupt system to take hold by demanding bribes, money for jobs and money for welfare housing and giving preference to their supporters of their corrupt network (the so called inner circle) for jobs.

    There are many laws against racism and discriminating on the basis of race, religion or sexual orientation yet BEE has become a corrupt network for many of those enriching themselves under the cover of legislation.

    So how does this affect law and order? a few examples:

    Former National Police Commissioner and ex-President of Interpol, Jackie Selebi, was convicted on corruption charges in July 2010, for receiving (at least) R120 000 from alleged crime-syndicate boss, Glenn Agliotti.

    The Goodwood police station commander, Siphiwu Hewana, was found guilty of attempting to defeat the ends of justice by tampering with the docket for convicted fraudster Tony Yengeni’s arrest for drunken driving in 2007.

    While all this is going on Europe is subsidising their agricultural crops while South Africa and other African countries lose out on the opportunity to competitively export agricultural product to Europe.

    Their minerals are being literally bought out from under their feet by those with a vastly overrated exchange rate that pay very little from their privileged position for the wealth of African countries.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Roger says

    I wonder if pathological liars have a specific genotype. See most of Washington go down like skittles. A strong insecticide might be enough.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. elenits says

    Anne Applebaum: liar, propagandist, Brzezinski acolyte and protogee. For the best tracking of La Applebaum’s doings, her lies, fudges, money problems and career follow the links on John Helmer’s Dances with Bears website. Here’s the latest:
    http://johnhelmer.net/?p=15604
    Radoslaw Sikorski, Anne Applebaum conceal 2015 income from Polish parliament, Criminal Investigation to start

    Pathetic really. On par with the Netanyahus charging their pizzas / chinese takeout meals to the Israeli state and returning Israeli state dinner bottles to collect the cash…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. In fact the Neocons and the socalled “Soft Power” faction of the US Power Elite get united again. Not only the BRICS states are targetted, but the whole Southern Hemisphere, East Asia and the whole non-Western world.
    Hillary Clinton is the real danger not only for the US, but for the whole world. Clinton is the spearhead of the Neocons in the democratic party. She brought Victoria Nuland (quote: “fuck the EU”) into the Obama administration. Nuland is the wife of Robert Kagan. Kagan is co-founder of the neoconservative “ Project For The New American Century”. The neocons are more and more in control of the democratic party and of the US administration. If one wants to know what is in the Neocon „pipe“, one should read their think tank papers. In September 2000 the US Think Tank “Project for the New American Century” issued the paper “Rebuilding America´s Defenses”. On page 60 you find the announcement of Fascist atrocities! It reads:
    „And advanced forms of biological warfare that can “target” specific genotypes may transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool.“
    Surely it should not target white Anglo Saxon Protestants (WASPs)! About the possible consequences and background: “US Power Elite Declared War on the Southern Hemisphere, East Asia and all Non-Western Countries in September 2000”: https://wipokuli.wordpress.com/2016/03/13/us-power-elite-declared-war-on-the-southern-hemisphere-east-asia-and-all-non-western-countries-in-september-2000/
    Regards
    Andreas Schlüter
    Sociologist
    Berlin, Germany

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you for this information. The bit on “advanced forms of biological warfare that can “target” specific genotypes” — something the original Nazis themselves would have loved to have — is absolutely chilling. It ‘s an indictment of our press that there’s been no international uproar about this until now.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Oddlots says

      Jesus. Just checked. Yep. Right there on page 60.

      That is the most nauseating piece of blood-cold conjecture I’ve seen in my life-time. Seriously. Entirely worthy of Mengele.

      Isn’t Kagan a signatory to this and also one of Hellary’s vaunted advisors.

      Enormous thanks for bringing this to the surface.

      Liked by 1 person

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