Ready to Explode?
“The people have spoken! The people have unequivocally said the anc [African National Congress] leads! In their millions and without hesitation, the people of South Africa have renewed the mandate of the anc to govern our country.” With these words South Africa’s new president, Thabo Mbeki, claimed election victory.
Nelson Mandela hand-picked Mbeki to follow his term in office as the country’s first black president. Mbeki served as Mandela’s deputy for the anc’s first term in office. Now, at 80, Mandela plans to return to his birthplace and live a more peaceful life in relative political obscurity.
The anc gained 266 seats in the 400-seat national assembly, falling just one seat short of the coveted two-thirds majority which ensures power to change the constitution. The Mbeki government, however, faces the daunting tasks of combatting rampant crime, unraveling health services, declining educational standards and a plummeting rand, South Africa’s currency. How will this new president lead the so-called rainbow nation? What now lies ahead for South Africa?
Who Is Thabo Mbeki?
South Africa’s new president was born on June 4, 1942, in a mud hut in the beautiful Transkei region in the southeast of the country. Mbeki’s parents were teachers and political activists saturated in Marxist dogma. If young Thabo wasn’t helping his mother clean their hut or working the farm with his father, he was buried in the writings of Karl Marx. At age 10, Thabo’s parents decided that he would attend Lovedale Institute; however, his education was interrupted when he was expelled for organizing protests against the government. At age 14, after encouragement from his parents, he joined the anc Youth League.
In 1960 the anc was banned. It has long been allied with the South African Communist Party (sacp), with roots clear to Moscow. Thabo’s father, Govan, the leading figure in anc/sacp activities in the Eastern Cape, assisted in the founding of “Umkhonto we Sizwe” (Spear of the Nation), the military wing of the anc/sacp. Nelson Mandela was duly appointed the movement’s commander-in-chief.
Hand-picked by the anc elite, Mbeki was to be specifically trained to someday lead the anc and a “liberated” South Africa. In 1962, the anc had the 20-year-old Mbeki smuggled out of the country under the guise of being a member of a touring soccer team. He surfaced in England where he studied economics at Sussex University. Mbeki worked for the anc’s office in London. He underwent detailed military training in the then-Soviet Union and remained in exile for 30 years, traveling the world developing vital business contacts for the anc. While in exile, Mbeki made his now-famous call to action via the anc’s pirate radio station for a campaign of sabotage to render South Africa “ungovernable.”
Sabotage attacks within South Africa led to the 1963-64 Rivonia Trial, at which time Nelson Mandela and nine other leaders of “Spear of the Nation” were imprisoned. While Mbeki remained in exile far from South Africa, Mandela served over 30 years in prison on Robbin Island, off the coast of Cape Town.
Newsweek magazine’s Marcus Mabry and Tom Masland recently wrote, “During the long years of struggle the anc intentionally focused attention on the jailed Mandela, elevating him to the status of living saint.” It was this focus, promoted by Mbeki internationally, which helped garner support for the anc from the United Nations, the Soviet Union, the Mideast and various Western nations before Mandela’s release in 1990 by the F.W. De Klerk-led National government.
Throughout Mandela’s rule, Mbeki has been the quiet back-room operator, establishing himself as Mandela’s confidant and golden boy of the anc/sacp, and securing key domestic and international economic and political allies to rely upon while in office.
Sipping tea, Nelson Mandela looks calmly at a group of local and foreign reporters gathered for a breakfast in his honor. When asked about the future of South Africa he says, “Thabo has been running the government now for a couple of years. I’ve just been a nominal president. Thabo has all the wisdom one needs to lead the country.”
Since the 1994 De Klerk handover, South Africa has dramatically changed. Now the country is essentially a one-party state. Mike Ellis of the South African Democratic Party says, “The anc seems to think that ‘consensus’ is reached once they have agreed amongst themselves.” Just like Mandela, Mbeki is working hard to assure the white minority, Asians and Indians that there is room for all in the new South Africa.
In their recent biography of Mbeki, Adrian Hadland and Jovial Raanto state, “No one should doubt the depths of anger he feels about the degradation of his people wrought by colonialism, apartheid and their beneficiaries.”
Mandela governed on a declared platform of reconciliation based around liberation of the majority black population. Many of the election promises of the Mandela government were not effectively instituted. The promise of a million new homes has not been fulfilled. Water supply is largely insufficient. Crime is at an all-time high. Health services and educational standards falter.
Speaking in parliament about the need for the government to make good on its promises, Mbeki quoted from the American poet Langston Hughes. “What happens to a dream deferred?” he asked. “It explodes.”
That is the point to which the new South Africa has come. It’s time for the anc to deliver on their promises to the people or watch their country explode. The pressure on Mbeki is enormous.
The many contacts the anc/sacp has been fostering for so long are the very trading partners the rainbow nation is now gravitating toward. Mbeki has kept publicly silent, while Mandela has worked hard to spread the net of gratitude to those countries (many of which are so-called “rogue nations”) which supported the anc/sacp struggle. During his term, Mandela visited Libya, Cuba, Morocco, Russia, Indonesia, Iran and various European nations. When U.S. President Bill Clinton tried to discourage Mandela from such political and economic associations, Mandela responded, “We should not abandon those who helped us in the darkest hour in the history of this country.” He said, “Not only did they support us with rhetoric, they gave us the resources for us to conduct the struggle and to win. Those South Africans who have berated me for being loyal to our friends, literally they can go and jump in a pool” (Africa News, March 27, 1998).
It would indeed be naïve to assume that those who financed the anc/sacp struggle to make Thabo Mbeki’s dream of rendering South Africa “ungovernable” would not be repaid with valuable political and economic agreements. Mandela and Mbeki have ensured that payments are being made on these past loans. However, this leaves South Africa in a precarious position, playing servant to its international bedfellows while struggling to meet the desperate need to improve major social services on the home front.
Speaking in parliament in 1998, Mbeki noted with approval that after Germany’s reunification, West Germans accumulated vast quantities of cash to assist their eastern citizens. He contrasted this with the whites’ inability, notwithstanding their reluctance, to pay increased taxes to improve the circumstances of their black neighbors.
The Economist of May 29 explained, “The West Germans are much richer than white South Africans, and outnumber East Germans by four to one. Whites make up only 11 percent of South Africa’s population. It is simply not possible for the mass of poor black South Africans to prosper through income transfers from whites.
“It will be especially hard for South Africa to make the transition from poverty to affluence if education is neglected, if hard work and merit are not valued, and if the richest black role-models are seen to have succeeded through their connections with the ruling party.”
With Russia strapped for cash, its recent commercial and economic involvement in South Africa has been limited. However, two especially visible trading partners have struck historic agreements with the new South Africa, rich in natural resources and technology and situated in a most strategic location. Those two committed partners are Iran and the European Union.
Iranian Military Cooperation
“We should not abandon those who helped us in the darkest hour in the history of this country.” Nelson Mandela’s words ring in the ears of those loyal foreign supporters of the anc/sacp struggle in South Africa. For them, it’s payback time.
Mandela visited Tehran early in his term, meeting with then-Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, inviting him to visit South Africa. He then met with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s spiritual leader, and before departing laid a wreath at the tomb of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. This was a clear show of his support for Iran. Iran broke ties with the South African apartheid government after Khomeini’s 1979 Islamic revolution, but nurtured ties with the anc/sacp.
And note this. The United States, which has imposed sanctions against Iran on grounds that it supports terrorism, has accused Tehran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons. The path to increased levels of arms intelligence and weaponry traffic from South Africa was made infinitely easier when the U.S. removed its 35-year-old arms embargo in February 1998. There have been concerns expressed that South Africa’s nuclear technology might be for sale for the right bid.
Early on during the Mandela administration, Iran received favored political and economic status with South Africa. Various government officials shuttled back and forth from Tehran to Pretoria, discussing and finalizing agreements on oil, gas and petrochemicals. Iran wanted access to South Africa’s refineries and stocking facilities. In addition, as a gesture of good will, direct air links were established.
Since that time Iran has promoted more trade and political cooperation between the two countries. In 1997, the trade relationship between South Africa and Iran topped 5 billion rand, making Iran South Africa’s largest trading partner at the time—with the trade balance heavily in Iran’s favor. Iran is South Africa’s primary source of crude oil. This has proven a prime bargaining chip for the Iranians, who now access much-sought-after strategic facilities at Saldanha Bay, north of Cape Town.
The problem with this trade relationship is, as intelligence analyst Joseph de Courcy has observed, “Nelson Mandela’s post-apartheid South Africa has been granted a virtual immunity from serious criticism by the Western powers in a way that is potentially very damaging, particularly as regards South Africa’s relationship with Iran” (Intelligence Digest, October 31, 1997).
The West became deeply concerned when it discovered that the Mandela government had made facilities available for five training camps for the Iranian-backed Hezbollah group.
The paramount concern for the West should be the supply of portable elements and technical know-how from South Africa to Iran’s nuclear program. So sensitive is this subject that in 1997 a court order was slammed on the South African press preventing reporting on the nation’s arms sales to Islamic states, including Syria and Iran.
As we wrote in our February 1998 edition, “There can be no doubt that Iran aspires to become a nuclear power. How ironic that the process may be hastened by the acquisition of technology developed by confirmed enemy Israel, in consortium with South Africa, during the apartheid years…. The seeds of South Africa’s future have been sown through [Mandela’s] links with the masters of international terror.”
Historic EU Trade Agreement
On March 25, the European Council met in Berlin under the leadership of German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder to give its approval to the historic EU-South African Trade and Cooperation Agreement. The agreement encompassed political dialogue, provisions on the establishment of a free-trade zone, trade issues, economic cooperation and financial aid. For South Africa, the agreement affords increased access to the European market, particularly in the farming sector. Agriculture is the primary industry in South Africa. The rainbow nation sees the agreement as a great step forward in reconstructing its battered economy. The pact opens EU markets to 95 percent of South African exports, while South Africa will allow 86 percent of EU goods to freely enter its domestic market.
The European Council “welcomed this historic moment and instructed the Council to take urgently the necessary measures for its formal adoption” (Agenda 2000). The agreement is seen as an important step in the “consolidation and strengthening of the solid partnership which exists between the European Union and South Africa in the political, economic and trade fields. The European Council considers this historic agreement a symbol of the strong links of friendship and solidarity between the peoples of Europe and Southern Africa” (ibid.).
With Agenda 2000, the European Union becomes South Africa’s largest trading partner by far—accounting now for 44 percent of its imports, 28 percent of its exports and over 50 percent of its foreign direct investment. In stark contrast, the U.S. only accounts for 12 percent of South Africa’s imports and 7 percent of its exports. The EU agreement comes at a time when South African economists are troubled by the government’s willingness to compromise long-term economic security for short-term prosperity. In this trade agreement, the EU member states are the real winners.
The Crocodile’s Words of Warning
“I told Mr. Mandela, whilst he was sitting in that very chair which you occupy, that the anc-Islamic cabal would be his downfall. The anc’s terrorist bedfellows are calling in their debts.” It was with these words, spoken in a Trumpet interview in 1995 in George, South Africa, that Pieter Willem Botha warned of where the new South Africa was headed. “The Crocodile,” as he was known during his political career, was South Africa’s president from 1979 to 1989. Whatever scorn his enemies may cast on him, his leadership was steeped in constant reflections on the belief that South Africa had originally been delivered to its Caucasian rulers by the hand of God.
In that interview, Botha commented about South Africa’s annual commemoration of the Day of the Covenant. In 1995, after the De Klerk handover, the Mandela ANC government changed the Day of the Covenant to “Reconciliation Day.” Botha declared in a 1979 speech, “Commemoration of the Day of the Covenant”: “For me the meaning of 16 December lies not in vain glorying in military victory. Nor does it lie in the triumph of White over Black. The Day of the Covenant is not a symbol of the Afrikaner’s superiority. The Day of the Covenant is a symbol of the Afrikaner’s readiness to kneel before his Creator…. The true meaning of the Day of the Covenant lies in the fact that prayer and the word of God triumphed, and that the civilization that grew from it brought a new dawn to South Africa.
“But above all, the happiness of the people of this country depends on our acceptance of our duties, not only towards one another but also to God, for our God is a God of order and orderly development…. A nation that honors God and trusts in Him, and fulfills its daily duties in thankfulness, will have hope for the future.”
The importance of the observance of The Day of the Covenant in South Africa is being lost. For a country which recognizes all religions and their gods, the roots of South Africa’s very founding have withered. Botha declared to Nelson Mandela when he visited him at his home, “I do not fear you. I fear God!” There is no room for God in the new South Africa.
F.W. De Klerk acted as the political instrument which broke the vow of a nation to God and opened up the doors of South Africa to a prospective Islamic nuclear club and an emerging commercial giant, the European Union.
Playing the Trump Card
As Mandela’s star fades and Mbeki’s rises, the words of P.W. Botha sound as warning bells for a nation originally founded upon God.
South Africa is in serious trouble. It has clearly headed in the wrong direction. It has allied itself with two great powers: one, the King of the South—radical Islam—and the other, the King of the North—the European Union. As our February 1998 article “Payback Time” foretold, the rainbow nation has been forced to play its “trump card”—selling off its Israeli-authored nuclear technology to Iran and opening up its vast natural resources to the member states of the European Union. The King of the North and the King of the South are on the rise, and South Africa has supplied them the crucial means to attain their separate goals.
Caught between the rock of Iran and the hard place of the EU, South Africa has positioned itself between two great powers set to clash. “And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him: and the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass over” (Dan. 11:40).
For South Africa to flee the violence and hatred engulfing it and to attain lasting peace, there is only one course of action. It will have to learn to live by the words of P.W. Botha, having them etched upon the hearts of every South African—“I’ll tell you when we shall have peace: When we have learned to kneel in humility before God.”