What do expat experts do for development?

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DAY one. Straight to the Ministry. Past the man at the door - black and uniformed, nodding at first, then smiling when you greet him in his own language. Upstairs and down long corridors, walking slowly past the open doors. A sign reads Typing Pool - a bevvy of young black women sit chattering, giggling, easing headed notepaper through big old-fashioned machines. Filing-sullen young men read newspapers behind a pile of tattered manila folders. The Administrative assistant - a solitary, besuited man sits rigid at a large empty desk: black face, black pen, black telephone.

Onward, and the spaces between doors widen. On the left, Planning Officer - white man, early twenties, shirt open at the neck, one hand spreading the pages of the Fifth Development Plan, the other stabbing at a calculator. On the right: Project Co-ordinator - mid-West accent, talking excitedly into the phone. Mental note to see him later.

Three more strides to Economic Advisor - thinning hair, safari suit, leaning forwards to confer with a big pale-faced man, his briefcase open beside him. On the walls plans for the new airport; in front of them a thick contract. They look up briefly. But the last door swings open.

Gold lettering proclaims the Minister. Polished shoes dark suit taut waistcoat gold pen, black face, he reaches out his hand. 'Welcome my dear friend. How are things in Geneva?'

The parade of black administrators, with a thickening seam of white faces as you approach the top, It's a familiar scene for the visiting consultant. Many Third World countries are still heavily staffed with expatriates. All are experts.

Speaking to the Minister, calling a top-level meeting, sending black and white officials scurrying, is the leader of the gang - the short-term consultant. Sharp-shooting, hard-talking, high-flying - often he holds the purse strings of an international aid agency or his own government. But a developing country may have only three weeks to prise these strings from his hand. His own purse is well-lined - $300 a day plus expenses in the case of the World Bank.

Still a rare sight: visiting expert in close consultation with his clients. Photo: OXFAM
Still a rare sight: visiting expert in close consultation with his clients. Photo: OXFAM

The white faces behind big desks are expatriate civil servants `on loan' to the Third World government. They are the aid policemen who make sure money is spent properly. They are aid itself - a gift of expertise - like a set of encyclopaedias. Or they plug that skilled manpower gap - with teachers, nurses, technicians, administrators.

Theoretically they constitute a `holding operation'. `One day we won't need them', say government leaders. `When our people are trained, when they have gained experience, then we'll take over.'

But knowledge has a built-in obsolescence. Development fashions change fast, and technology advances faster. The foreign expert, with his international experience helps a country keep abreast of the times. And he is hard to replace. It is a rare government that is willing to sacrifice its white ambassadors from the North to the cause of self-sufficiency.

Successive revolutions have ousted their occupying army of expatriate colonialists, only to call them back again as experts when the fighting is over. The reins of the country may be in black hands, but it is a white man's voice that whispers in the driver's ear. And his advice can never be objective.

He is a foreigner first and foremost - an American, or a Russian - with corresponding ideals and experiences. A neo-colonial cold war is being waged in the hot sunshine of the developing world as the big powers carve out spheres of influence amongst sympathetic or pliable Third World governments.

The experts are their soldiers - an occupying army of 22,000 from the US (in 1970 - there has been `no demand' for figures since then, according to a USAID official in Washington) matched by 32,500 Soviets and 24,500 Chinese in 1977. There's nothing quite like a revolution to send superpower money and advisors flooding into neighbouring states. In the middle of 1980, driven by fear of a Russian invasion of Pakistan from Afghanistan, Western donors pledged a $980 million aid package - a dramatic increase on the previous $700 million deal. And beggars can't often be choosers. The expert is aid. A Third World government usually gets him just as it gets Land Rovers - on the donor's terms. Mozambique was the first to insist that incoming expatriates had political sympathy as well as technical skill.

Most countries just accept their experts as part of the aid package - without the aid policeman there can be no aid. As with the `conditionality' of IMF loans, a price must be paid because the donors don't trust local administrators to spend their money carefully.

USAID prefers a different language. Their experts are merely `filling in' while local people are 'trained-up' for high-ranking positions. Most training, of course, takes place in the US. Similarly, refugees from South Africa are receiving training by the Soviets, while a large slice of British aid is spent on training students and officials from the former empire.

The paths are well-worn between Third World ministries, international agencies and foreign universities. African and Asian civil servants arriving to take their PhD's bump into their economics professor at the airport, wearing his consultant hat and waiting for the outbound flight.

Along the way a common language is learnt, a common understanding achieved, and the development songs are sung in unison - to the bewilderment of those that stayed at home.

`Infrastructure' was the catchy ditty at the Top of the Development Pops in the 1960s. Next they were singing `integrated development'. Today it's `basic needs'.

Projects are set up by local and foreign experts together. A shared point of view is part of the deal. When the World Bank says it wants to `put money into basic needs', then the experts have to go and look for them. Out on tour in the countryside they keep a keen eye open for a clear need that is easily met. Their hosts try to oblige: the result- toilets in remote clinics to flush away scarce water - for three weeks, until they break down and breed more germs than a score of pit latrines.

The `green revolution' is a good example of expert thinking dragging massive finance in its wake and overwhelming development policy in poor countries. High-yielding seed varieties can triple harvests on model farms. But for peasants with meagre resources they don't work. The poor farmer simply doesn't have the necessary fertilisers and abundant water, and can't spare the time needed to care for the miraculous new seeds.

There are few shortcuts to success. But still the experts look for them. The Ford Foundation sent a group of US agricultural experts to India in 1959. They agreed it was impossible to reach all India's half a million villages so recommended a plan that covered only well-irrigated farms. The result: a national agricultural development programme based on these miracle seeds, serving only one tenth of the land, and reaching mostly rich farmers.

The desk-bound expert means top-down development almost by definition. First think of a cure for poverty in a well-sanitised office. Next a quick bedside visit to the patient in the shape of a village tour. If the poor take their medicine according to the directions, they will be cured. If they refuse, then they only have themselves to blame. The patient gets no choice of medicines. He can only co-operate with, but never participate in, the treatment.

Faced with boycotts of their projects experts have tried to manufacture 'participation'. Farmers' committees and self-help groups are now considered vital components of good projects. But still the poor are excluded. A World Bank expert working on a Bangladesh tubewell project admitted he had given up investigating the landholdings of co-operative chairmen: they were always the big farmers. And, he admitted, `100 per cent of the wells were going to the big boys'.

Still a rare sight: visiting expert in close consultation with his clients. Photo: OXFAM
Seeing things from the same perspective. Photo: OXFAM

The local elite on their farms, the government elite in their offices, and the foreign experts in theirs. A big club perhaps. But an exclusive one. In the town they share the symbols of `expatriate life' - creating islands of privilege surrounded by lamentable poverty. The foreigners bring a taste for food and consumer comfort that needs to be specially met - or they won't stay. Air conditioning, fresh vegetables, imported gin, special schools for their children. Fees and airfares are standard contract perks, while tax-free salary cheques thud monthly into home bank accounts to meet morgage repayments and soften the hard realities of Western recession.

Up to 25 per cent of Western aid budgets is spent on experts. After salary, airfares, school fees, various perks, and home-based overheads are covered, the average British expert costs $150,000 a year. And that's considered cheap on this circuit. The money creates a lifestyle that is difficult to sustain back home. Yet this is the carrot dangled in front of the local community - driving government salaries up to satisfy the ever present hunger for consumer goods, and at the same time creating an even bigger gap between the urban rich and the rural poor.

The expert is a necessary evil, perhaps. But can he be an agent for constructive change? Certainly the cards seem stacked against him: divorced from the poor once by his profession, twice by his culture, and a third time by the rules of the game. Information about poverty is channeled through the local administration. Occasional visits to the village may add colour, but are unlikely to provide an alternative view-point. The expert who seriously challenges his host's interpretation of local problems is quite likely to be shown the door. A Western sociologist working at the University of Malawi circulated a paper criticising the showpiece Lilongwe Development Project - President Banda's pride and joy - and soon found himself packing his bags. The threat of being `PI'd' (made a prohibited immigrant) by an angry government hangs over every `guest worker'.

But what about the good expert? Champion of the poor, shunning luxury, living in a mud but among the people, heroically exposing exploitation wherever he finds it. He doesn't exist. Some experts live in villages. Some do their best to focus attention on the plight of the under-privileged. Some stand on principle and lose their jobs. But alone, they can never effectively challenge the local structure of power.

The expert's power is restricted. It is rooted in the economic muscle of his own government or agency. And economic power has its own imperatives and priorities - such as returns on investment. The committed expert is unlikely to get much support from his boss at home for his efforts to organise the landless, or in a campaign against vested interests among government officials.

This importance of the `alternative' expert is slowly dawning but the realisation is still confined to a handful of non-government organisations.

Yet a world without experts is hard to imagine. They are the human interface between the North and the South. A vehicle for perverse and inappropriate values - yes, often - but if the rich world has anything to offer the poor, it must pass through the hands of experts. And there is much to be learnt. Internationalism is built on an understanding of shared and related difficulties. The problem is that experts learn from experts. The only way to break the charmed circle is to return to basic principles - to people planting sorghum, digging ditches, tending sick children, and hawking their produce in the market place.

For God and Country

The Shah: King of King

Photo: Abbas / Gamma

The real mystery of the Iranian revolution is not that it happened, but what has become of it. The spectacular fall of the Shah may have taken the CIA, the Western press and even the Shah himself by surprise. But scholars of the Middle East now offer us a score of reasons for the revolution. History is, after all, predictable. What's lacking now is real insight into the workings of the Islamic Republic that has supplanted the Pahlavi dynasty. The iniquities of the Shah's regime were known well before it crumbled. They covered every dark shade of the dictatorial spectrum: from diabolical torture to perverted government to million dollar frauds. SAVAK, the secret police, earnt the Shah's reputation for brutal violation of human rights. Its effectiveness relied on routine torture, sham trials and a network of informers. Masoud Ahmadzadeh is but one victim who told how SAVAK interrogators had tied him to 'an iron frame rather like a bed, covered with wire mesh which was electrically heated like a toaster'. 'No country in the world,' reported Amnesty International in 1975 'has a worse record in human rights than Iran.' And this in the middle of the bank-bursting oil boom that saw national income treble from 17.3 billion dollars in 1972 to 54.6 billion in 1978. Wealth of this magnitude is not easily squandered. But the Shah had a passion for the most expensive consumer goods of all - sophisticated weapons - and managed to spend $20 billion in ten years. The leftovers were shared at home between corrupt officials and capricious development schemes. The twist in the Shah's feverish 'modernisation' plans is that they were not all had. And within them were them seeds of his own downfall. During his 25 year reign some $30 billion dollars were spent on economic and social projects. While most villages were neglected, in the towns both industry and education mushroomed dramatically - creating a new working class from the dwindling peasantry. Up to 90 per cent of young men emigrated from small villages in search of jobs in the city: 800,000 in factories, 500,000 in the construction industry - in all 1.7 million urban wage earners out of a 1977 work force of 10 million. In the same period the salaried middle class - civil servants, engineers, managers, teachers - doubled in size to 30,000, while university enrolment multiplies eleven times to 154,000. The upshot of this uncontrolled growth was massive, conspicuous inequality. While a young graduate could earn $4,500 a month, a construction worker got $5.50 a day. By 1977 nearly half of Tehran's four million had inadequate housing. The city had no sewage system and no public transportation. And set a world apart from both workers and professionals were the Shah's court, the 'petro-bourgeoisie', 45 families who controlled 85 per cent of big private enterprise. They seemed oblivious to the chaos mounting on their doorstep. When the Shah's younger brother, owner of a helicopter factory, was tackled about the city's traffic nightmare he replied: 'If people don't like traffic jams why don't they buy helicopters?' Meanwhile it was costing more to grow a bag of wheat than to buy one in the urban markets, and poor villagers continued streaming to Tehran in search of work. But it was not distorted development alone that undermined the Shah's rule. His fatal mistake was in trying to deny political power to everyone - even those who might have supported him. By 1975 all political parties and trade unions were state-run and infiltrated by SAVAK. The Shah consistently ignored the advice of his government planners. The ranks of professionals grew ever more resentful as they were denied both responsibility and a larger slice of the oil wealth. Then came the crack-down on bazaar merchants and the religious establishment. Redevelopment was planned and legislation was tightened. Big entrepreneurs could vat loans from state banks at six per cent interest, but merchants had to pay their moneylenders 20-30 per cent. 'The Shah will destroy us,' complained one shopkeeper, 'the banks are taking over. The big stores are undermining our livelihoods and the government will flatten our bazaars to make room for staff offices.'

King of Kings - ruled by money alone

Pressure on orthodox Moslems was also stepped-up. Women who insisted on wearing the chador were banned from the universities, and polygamy was outlawed. Clerics protested bitterly that the Shah was trying to 'nationalise religion'. The Qom seminary was shut and at least five prominent Ayatollahs were imprisoned. In the end every section of Iranian society had unsettled grievances against the Shah. Martial law was declared on September 8th 1978 but could not stop the million-strong demonstrations chanting 'death to the Shah'. It seems - perhaps because President Carter never gave him the green light - that the Shah decided not to drown the revolution in blood. By October the Khuzestan oil workers were on strike and the regime's life-line was slowly cut. Without oil or money and with no support from foreign allies the repressive machine ground to a halt. Defeated and humiliated, the Shah left on January 16th 1979 for the 'holiday' from which he was never to return. During the revolution Ayatollah ' Khomeini had become the name on everyone's lips. Exiled in 1963 for his earlier opposition to the Shah, Khomeini had remained a dogged and outspoken critic of Iran's 'modernisation'. His simple messages were played on tapes smuggled into the mosques, urging his followers to revolt. Supporting him was a potent mixture of radical theologians, old fashioned bazaar merchants and the devout, but un-educated lower classes. The network of religious leaders offered the only widespread organisation for the revolution. Combined with the bazaar's money and its influence over workers and families, mass mobilisation became possible. The secular opposition faced an awkward choice - to be left on the sidelines or to march with the faithful beneath the Khomeini placards. Almost all chose to join forces. Their one shared aim was to overthrow the Shah. From the start it was an uneasy partnership.

Millions support Khomeini, but since the revolution the crowds have dwindled.

Khomeini's writings on 'Islamic Government' were published before the revolution, but not until now have they been spelt out in practice. The cornerstone of his theology is the conviction that Islamic laws should not be confined to religious or personal morality - they must be embodied in public leadership. It is left to the faqih - 'the just, pious, learned, capable, and courageous jurist' - to interpret divine law for the people. 'Islamic Government,' writes Khomeini, 'is the government of the laws of God over people.' It 'must belong to the faqihs and not to those who due to their ignorance must follow the faqihs'. Within the hierarchy of the Shi'a mosque the faqih is 'elected' by longstanding agreement amongst all Ayatollahs. But Iran's new constitution actually names Khomeini as faqih. This gives him supreme I power over all institutions of government. Doesn't this make Khomeini just as much a dictator as the Shah, ask his critics. In principle the answer must be yes. Khomeini's defence is that the constitution was drawn up by elected representatives and then put to a popular referendum. But there has been plenty of opposition within Iran. Government based on Islamic law is 'neither feasible nor practicable, nor desirable' argues civil rights lawyer Hasan Nazih. Having been made Chairman of the powerful National Iranian Oil Company Nazih was accused of treason and dismissed. Also upset by the constitution are Kurds and other minorities who have fought hard for more regional autonomy but still without signs of success. Like Iranians who are not Moslems - either Shi'a or Sunni, orthodox or unorthodox - they see no justice in having to submit to laws based on this or that interpretation of the Koran.

President Bani-Sadr, 75 percent of the vote but still haunted by Khomeini's power.

The difficulty of getting things right in Islamic terms has made government difficult. Power, other than that invested in Khomeini, is not clearly defined. So often was Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan overruled he eventually complained that his administration was like a 'knife without a blade'. President Bani-Sadr now has to contend with a 12-man 'Guardianship Council' empowered to veto parliamentary decisions that do not conform to Islamic law. A succession of turnabouts in Bani-Sadr's own policies has shaken his credibility. And when Khomeini admonishes him, Bani-Sadr's sweeping election victory looks rather shallow. At present Khomeini oversees the warring factions. The Islamic Republic Party led by Ayatollah Behehti provides the inspiration for fundamentalist opposition to the President. The pro-Soviet Tudeh party and the Marxist Fedayin rather meekly lend their support to Khomeini on an 'anti-imperialist' ticket, but still wince at his anti-communist fervour. 'We are fighting against international communism,' cries Khomeini, 'to the same degree that we are fighting against the Western world.' Khomeini's condemnation of the Shah's decadence had great appeal amongst conservative Moslems genuinely worried about their daughters meeting boys at the cinema. Similarly, public support swells behind calls for purges of the universities. 'Free yourself from the evil of the "isms",' Khomeini instructs "intellectuals", 'so that the universities may become healthy places for the study of higher Islamic teachings.' Speeches like this make it clear that Khomeini and his followers are calling for nothing less than a complete 'cultural revolution' in Iran. 'We shall confront the world with our ideology,' he declares, exhorting the youth to 'take the Koran in one hand and the weapon in the other'. For those Iranians with a liking for Western culture, or whose religious sympathies rest elsewhere, the future under a strict Islamic regime looks grim. Women looking for Western-style liberation will have to start from scratch. However, the regime cannot be judged on religious grounds alone. Equally important are the changes that it offers for those oppressed by the Shah in the name of Western capitalism. This is where the judgement gets difficult. What are the Islamic regime's economic policies? And who do they benefit? The Iranian economy came to a standstill during the revolution. Oil production stopped, factory workers streamed onto the streets and offices were shut. Evidence about recovery is scarce. Oil production has resumed at about a third of previous levels. The Shah was pumping it out as fast as possible. The new regime is more conservation-minded, but also suffering from the loss of US and European technicians. Most factories are open again but 1979 production was 50 per cent down. And shops are hard hit by the new-found austerity of their customers. Between two and three million are reported to be unemployed. Before the Shah's downfall up to three billion dollars a year was being spent on imported food. Add to this the needs of the 1.5 million people who flooded into Tehran during and after the revolution, and the 35 per cent increase in food prices during 1979 and the result is a massive problem. The only solution consistent with the goal of self-sufficiency set by Khomeini is a massive return to the land and huge increases in agricultural production. There are some signs of improvement. Asghar Ebrahimi, Governor of the Western Province of Ham claims wheat production is up ten times on last years' disastrous harvest. Next year he promises not to 'leave a square metre unplanted'. His example will need to be followed right across the country if Iran's dependence on imports is to be wiped out. Research into the aspirations of young villagers brings more pessimistic conclusions. Most had some experience of city life under the Shah and still want to buy watches, transistor radios, motorbikes. They see no contradiction between religion and pleasure, respecting the clergy for their piety, but mocking them for their asceticism. Their understanding of Islamic government is not a theological one. They want higher wages, medical insurance, rural electrification, health clinics - all the trappings of modern life. Once tasted, such 'luxuries' are hard to forget. The Shah gave his people a materialist appetite that the Islamic regime must also attempt to satisfy - unless the mullah's revolution can change no only the policies of government but the hearts of people.

Life without Men

In Gaborone, the men in the government are sighing with relief as they watch the rain soaking into their perfect green lawns. It marks the end of a drought in Botswana: the cattle's grazing will be saved now. And cattle mean wealth and security. By selling just one good ox a man can feed his family for a year.

But for the 48 per cent of Botswana families who don't own any cattle the effects of last year's drought will linger on until the next harvest in June.

Six months seems a long time to someone like Naledi. She is one of the 33 per cent of women in Botswana with no men and no cattle to help support her family. Her husband died, leaving her to provide for four children and their grandparents. If the rain falls at the wrong time, she will face another year of crippling poverty. Neither of her two sons is old enough to plough her land, even if she had the cattle, and strong traditions prevent her from ploughing herself, or from performing any of the agricultural tasks for which a relatively decent wage can be earned.

She is forced to wait until she can persuade a neighbour or relative to plough for her. But they are busy on their own land, and by the time they get around to helping her, the best of the rains may be over. She manages by getting what she can from 'majako' (an informal arrangement where agricultural work is done for payment in kind), beer brewing and by raising a few chickens.

Her small figure is a familiar sight. She is never still; collecting water from the nearby standpipe; sweeping her immaculate, beautifully decorated compound; repairing the walls of one of her three round mud huts (rondavels); returning from a six-mile walk into the bush for firewood. Or disappearing for a week with her family to work on a neighbour's land. For a day's bird-scaring or weeding she and her older children can earn 72 thebe (65 cents) between them. It's not much, but it buys a small bag of mealimeal - just enough to keep body and soul in some tenuous contact with each other for another few days.

She is not the only one in this plight. In a skimpy mini-skirt and bare feet, Malebogo passes the village bottle store on her way home. She looks up in response to shouts and jeers from the group of young men lounging outside. But she shakes her head when they call over.

At home her mother waits, sitting hunched and miserable, in the doorway of the tin-roofed house. She mutters, looks around vaguely for a sign of Samuel, Malebogo's brother and then lapses back into a world of her own. Samuel is away working in the goldmines of South Africa, and he hasn't come home for Christmas this year.

Malebogo is angry. If he doesn't come back soon it will be too late to plough ... If only one of those men would marry her instead of infecting her with their filthy diseases . . . and now after twelve years of VD, she's barren and won't ever find a husband.

With nearly 50 per cent of men between the ages of 20 and 29 away in South Africa's mines, a man in Botswana can afford to pick and choose. He likes to know that his woman can bear children before he commits himself. But, for a woman, an illegitimate child is no guarantee of a husband.

It is tempting to dismiss Botswana men as a crowd of lazy, drunken, chauvenist, goodfornothings. But such men are as powerless as the women in a situation perpetuated by the migrant labour system and the Botswana government's callous disregard for the rural poor.

This acute shortage of men hits Botswana's rural womenfolk doubly hard. Firstly, they are left without labour during crucial times of the year. Secondly, their self-esteem is immeasurably damaged by having to compete with one another for the fleeting favours of a man who may decide to leave at any moment.

This migrant labour system functions to cushion a large proportion of the rural population from utter destitution. Remittances from those working in South Africa account for between 40 and 50 per cent of family income. It is often said that 'no-one dies of starvation in Botswana.' But this is an excuse for brushing over the fact that perhaps only 15 per cent of rural families are able to feed themselves from their own land. Recruitment of Botswana for work in the mines is now dropping sharply.

For men, wages from mine work are often the only chance of escaping from the drudgery of rural life: or of acquiring enough capital to buy cattle. Cattle are sacred in Botswana - the key to power and prosperity. And the key is denied to women.

A fence runs along the 25 mile stretch of road between Odi village and Gaborone. On one side of the fence the grass is green and thick. On the other side goats graze on thorn bushes and pull listlessly at a few bits of grass straggling across the sand.

Behind the fence lies one of the Presdient's farms. No-one knows how many cattle President Sir Seretse Khama owns but the family empire is vast. The Vice-Presdient, Dr Masire, is even richer. In fact 80 per cent of the cattle in Botswana is owned by ten per cent of the people: and the richest of these are Members of Parliament. Small wonder that government policy concentrates on meat canning, the farcical Tribal Grazing Lands Policy - proposed by civil servants as a means of dealing with the problems of overgrazing but so emasculated by parliament that only rich cattle owners can benefit from it now - and prestige projects such as the new international airport.

Such inequalities seem impossible to combat: so perhaps Malebogo's brother Samuel can be forgiven for staying away. Having experienced the intoxication that comes from a pocket-full of Rand at the end of the month, it is difficult for a man to summon enthusiasm for back-breaking work on a land which yields such meagre rewards. To make things worse, he may be weakened by TB from mining conditions, and he will certainly bring VD back to his village.

Three days after the rains begin, life returns to normal in the village. A medley of women's voices, pierced by the wailing of children, comes from the crowd jostling around the clinic. The clinic and primary school stand out: smart and square and white, in the midst of the scattered round clay huts. A harassed nurse tries to keep order as she weighs the children and supervises the feeding of the thinnest ones.

This is where the drought and the privileges of the big cattle ranchers take its biggest toll. On the vulnerable brains and bodies of small children.

Festina stands in the queue, half ashamed, half defiant. She has proved her fertility twice - to two different men. But they are under no obligation to marry her or support her children. But Festina is philosophical: 'This my child is like a purse of gold. Am I to say "to whom does this gold belong?". No, she is my purse of gold.'

But the babe is pitifully thin and has to be coaxed to eat the slimy greenish 'maluti' from the clinic cooking pot. 'Maluti' is the local name for the cornsoya meal provided by the FAO for malnourished children.

Festina's mother has resigned herself to her growing brood of illegitimate grandchildren. 'There are just not enough men to marry my daughters' she sighs. 'Am I to scold them for having children when no-one ever gets married these days?' It's true. All seven hundred villagers are Christians, but there hasn't been a wedding for two years.

Rural destitution is kept at bay, not only by remittances from outside Botswana, but also by the extended family structure. There is an intricate system of traditional responsibilities both within the family and between those linked by marriage. With so few marriages, this whole framework may soon break down altogether, as it has in the squatter camps outside the cities of Gaborone and Francistown.

Festina's young baby is called 'Mosetsanagape' - literally 'another girl' - a cruel illustration of how vital men are to women in rural areas. From the moment they are born little 'basimane' (boys) have an easier time than 'basetsana'. They are fed the choicest food and have little to do except play football until they are eight years old, while their sisters are already performing all the chores of womanhood. Then they are sent out to herd cattle and goats to and from the watering holes. In this job, the boys have milk and meat from the animals to supplement their diet of sorghum porridge. At home in the village, little girls fare much worse. In the queues outside the malnutrition clinics twice as many girls as boys are found to be pathetically thin.

Their early work with cattle far from home means that many boys miss out on their education. Up until the ages of 14 and 15 there are more girls than boys at school. A few are lucky enough to get a government job in Gaborone. But for others, less fortunate, there is no alternative but to continue to bend over the iron hard land. Hoping for a son. Waiting for rain. Praying for a man.


Half a Chance

Purine Motsa

Purine Motsa has been caught between the traditional role of women and the demands of a developing economy. Unable to follow the old pattern, she has not been allowed to participate fully in the new one - which is unfortunate for her country as well as for herself. Gay Seidman reports from Lobamba, Swaziland.

When she was younger, Purine Motsa wanted to be a teacher. Coming from a poor Swazi family, she might have found it difficult to get a place in a teacher training college or to pay school fees, but Purine, 20 is an intelligent enterprising woman. She might well have managed - if she had not fallen pregnant before she finished Form III.

Her status as an unmarried mother is not unusual. More than half of first children here are born out of wedlock. Three out of four women say they know nothing about family planning methods, and traditional sanctions against premarital pregnancy have broken down.

Once, Purine could have counted on marriage following the birth of her child, but things have changed. Like many of the young men from her area, Purine's boyfriend went off to become a construction worker in town.

Sitting in the small mud but she shares with her daughter, Purine speaks haltingly of the period following Nonhlanhla's birth. Forced to leave school because of her pregnancy, Purine looked for a job to support herself. She could not rely on her family: her father died in 1964, and nine children lived on the $25 a month that their mother could earn as a cook. But it was not easy to find work. Unemployment is high in Swaziland, and companies generally prefer to hire men.

After several months of desperate searching, Purine had some luck. A former teacher, realising her talents were being wasted, fought to get her a place in an agricultural school near her home. Although women do nearly all the agricultural work in Swaziland, the school - like most agricultural courses here - was designed only for men.

Eventually, they agreed to accept Purine as a test case. To pay her fees, she cooks meals for the boarding students, and her mother or a younger sister watches Nonhlanhla while Purine is at school. Laughing, she says that at first the other students expected her to be weaker than they. Now they know better. She has done well, taking several prizes last year, and four other women have now been admitted to the course.

But Purine's problems are not over.

As an unmarried woman without a son to put in front of her,' she cannot receive land under the traditional land tenure system.

So Purine will probably work at the school after she graduates, looking after poultry and doing other odd jobs - instead of the farming which she is eager and trained to do.

The school hopes to persuade the government to help her, but she is pessimistic. 'It is unfair' , she says softly, 'it is unfair' .

*Purine Motsa*: Women are not weak, they are clever, it is only that men don't want to admit that women are stronger than they are.'

The art of the impossible

You can't see Soweto from Johannesburg. It is hidden by an elevated motorway, then by huge dumps of waste from the gold mines, and finally by the shroud of its own smog.

Today, like every day, thousands of Soweto dwellers started their journey to work well before dawn. By eight o'clock nearly a quarter of a million will be at their jobs, either in the commerical heart of Johannesburg, or scattered throughout its suburbs. At the end of the day all of them must retreat from the city again. And the police are vigilant. By midnight some three hundred blacks will have been picked up for 'pass offences' - being where their pass books say they ought not to be.

Tomorrow morning their cases will be heard and sentence passed. In the space of 40 seconds each, some will be fined, some sentenced to forced labour on a white farm, and others ordered to be out of the district within 72 hours. The only place to go is their officially chosen homeland.

The White South African Republic is a wealthy nation. In the past twenty years it 'has enjoyed a rate of growth second only to Japan. Johannesburg itself is a fashion-conscious city, sharing the western taste for taut demin and pointed shoes. The country's four million whites enjoy high wages and good living.

But what of the twenty million black people - the workers who disappear at night, the women with babies on their backs pulling bits of firewood from under wire fences, the barefoot children carrying old petrol cans filled with water on their heads. They are the Third World within the First World. For South Africa is a microcosm of both.

Most of the white population sees nothing wrong with this. They can't understand what all the fuss is about. They feel embittered and persecuted by what they see as a new kind of 'anti-white' racism. Their argument runs like this:­

The British made a bad mistake trying to force black and white into one nation. This is our country and most of the blacks here really belong in neighbouring countries like Botswana and Lesotho. So now we're going to give back to the blacks their own independent countries. That's what the homelands policy is an about - giving each tribe their own nation. That way they can govern themselves independently. What's more, we'll still let them work here if they want to. And by the way, we're more than fulfilling our obligation to these new black nations. Transkei, for example, is getting more aid per capita than the UK is planning to give to Zimbabwe.'

Those people in Soweto all belong to one homeland or other and they can go and live there whenever they want. If they choose to work here, then we'll help them with housing and education. But if they stay in our country illegally - without a job - then we'll have to deport them.'

Black South Africans see it differently. 'South Africa is one nation.

We may come from different tribes, but so do the whites - Dutch, English, French, German - you name it They first came in 1652, but some of us have been here since the Stone Age. The fact is that the whites must learn to share this country with us. The Government talks about giving back our 'historic homelands'. That's nonsense. The British created those reserves to safeguard their gold mines. You can't have 80 per cent of the population living on 13% of the land. And we didn't choose to work for the white man. There was never any choice. We had to work to pay the white man's taxes and to buy our food. We still do. And under this Government's plans we always will.'

Strict control over land and labour was originally established by the British. It provided the foundations of economic discrimination upon which Afrikaaners could then build apartheid. After subduing the Africans with superior firepower, the British would have been happy to give them some democratic privileges. But not the Boers. Afrikaaner nationalism has always been unrepentantly racist. 'Political ideas which apply to our white civilisation do not apply to the administration of our native affairs' said General Smuts, South Africa's second Prime Minister, in 1917. Africans were to have no democratic rights and no claim to advancement in white society.

With the discovery of gold and diamonds and the manufacturing boom which followed, there was an ever-in­creasing demand for black labour. But the white economy wanted only labouring men and women. Spouses and children became unwanted 'appendages' to be left in the homelands.

Life has never been good in the homelands. While men were drawn into the mines by their need for cash, women were left to cultivate the unyielding soils.

From the outset of the homeland policy, the government itself calculated that in order to support a planned population of seven million, even at subsistence level, there would have to be widespread agricultural development and 1,250,000 new jobs. By 1970 the seven million people had already been crammed into the homelands, but sorghum production had dropped 50 per cent and only five per cent of the jobs had been created. More than two-thirds of land is now considered unsuitable for cultivation because of soil erosion or low rainfall.

With agriculture providing only one­tenth of family income there is often no choice but to leave the homelands in search of work. Many people return to the cities illegally. In October 1979 the Johannesburg Financial Mail calculated that a black person could spend nine months out of very twelve in gaol, but still earn 85 per cent more during the remaining three months in the city than he could in a full year in a homeland. And so the cycle of unemployment, prosecution and migration in search of work continues. Last year more than a quarter of a million blacks were arrested for offences against the pass laws alone. In this way, apartheid makes a crime out of job-seeking and punishes the attempts of women to stay with their migrant-worker husbands.

But one in every three black South Africans now lives in an urban area and the black industrial workforce now totals about three million. Unlike those who stay in the homelands knowing nothing but poverty, urban blacks experience their inequality at firsthand. Their labour creates wealth and provides services for the white society. A black maid has the most intimate knowledge of white domestic life. Every day she sets before the 'madam's' children food that she can never hope to afford for her own.

And so it is with the black miner working alongside his white supervisor whose pay packet is ten times the size of his.

More than half the families in Soweto have incomes below the poverty datum line. They know that they are poor. But they also see the white wealth which surrounds them. Added to this there is the routine humiliation of 'petty' apartheid: having to use different entrances to shops, different park benches, different elevators being excluded from restaurants, 'buses, hotels and hospitals. The bitterness runs deep.

Black opposition to apartheid has its roots in the townships. While the rural poor remain hungry, dejected and disorganised, township life provides the only real basis for black solidarity. But resistance has met with immediate, often brutal repression. In June 1976 when Soweto schoolchildren demonstrated against being taught in Afrikaans the police turned their guns on them. The first to die was a twelve-year-old schoolboy. In the following days there were uprisings in townships throughout the country. Everywhere the police fought stones with bullets. More than six hundred people died.

The need for violence is now gaining wider acceptance amongst blacks. After the Soweto uprising hundreds of students fled the country in order to join the liberation movements. Of those who trained as guerillas some have already returned to fight. Twice this year Soweto police stations have been the target of grenade and machine gun attacks.

As majority rule has come to each of its northern neighbours in turn, South Africa's white-ruled 'cordon sanitaire' has been swept away. Mozambique, Angola and now Zimbabwe have won their independence under radical flags. Only Namibia remains. The threat of a full scale guerilla war is now greater than ever. It is a war which South African generals believe cannot be won on the basis of military might alone. 'Bullets kill bodies, not beliefs' says General Magnus Malan, chief of South Africa's defence forces. Hence the army's campaign to win the 'hearts and minds' of the black population in strategic rural areas. Without their support, South Africa cannot hope to keep the guerillas at bay. 'The rural population is the key to the entire struggle,' says Brigadier Lloyd. 'Rural developement must take place to prevent insurgency or revolution.'

Already then there is a chink in the armour of giant apartheid. The need to give concessions to blacks is accepted by the new generation of strategists. A recent government commission on black trade unions, for example, decided that militant workers could no longer be dealt with by repressive measures alone.

Such measures, it was argued, would only 'add fuel to the flames of radicalism on the part of those who wish to overthrow the system'. Blacks must be rewarded, the Commission concluded , for continuing to work peacefully within the apartheid economy.

Predictably enough, this 'verligte' (enlightened) policy threatens to split the ruling National Party. Whilst new Prime Minister Botha throws his weight behind a policy designed to nurture a black middle class as a bulwark against more radical change, the right-wing diehards in the party grow restless and angry.

Big business supports the new strategy. Its own 'Urban Foundation' already provides improved housing in the black townships. With the giant Rembrandt Corporation's first $1 million contribution to the Foundation came the statement 'we cannot survive unless we have a free market economy and a stable black middle class, with the necessary security of tenure, personal security and a feeling of hope.'

The Government's new employment policies also aim to improve the chances of some urban blacks. They promise more skilled jobs and higher wages. But it is the white working class who will have to pay the price. Their privileges are often tied directly to employment legislation which reserves certain jobs for whites only. 'Africans must do the work we want them to,' says white mineworkers' leader Arrie Paulus, adding a personal note that 'I will not mix with blacks'.

This mixture of economic and racial self-preservation fuels the opposition of Botha from within his own party. But Botha's supporters say that the National Party must now go beyond simple ideological preference.

The 'verligte' group argues for economic realism. This means the creation of a black middle class to fill the country's crying needs for skilled workers and to stem the tide of more radical opposition. The old racist ideology must give way to a new constitution and politics, they say, must become 'the art of the necessary'. But what kind of constitution can they offer? Even 'enlightened' Botha still says 'one man, one vote is out'. The fundamental equation remains the same - blacks must work for whites on white terms only.

The terms haven't changed either. 'Don't try to do something unconstitutional,' Botha warns 'or you will be sorry'. But without a black mandate it is still a minority white constitution that he's talking about. And the Third World is littered with the burnt-out shells of constitutions like this.

Most blacks see only empty promises. They know that behind the new 'realistic' concessions the Afrikaaner fist remains clenched.

Black or White?

In 1950 the South African government decided that the entire population should be classified into four racial groups - African, White, Coloured and Asian. In mid-1977 the official population estimate for each of these categories was as follows:

White 4,365,000 Coloured 2,432,000 Asian 765,000 African 19,369,000 Africans, Coloureds and Asians are all discriminated against. Political differences do exist between them but most believe in a common cause - One man, one vote. Throughout this issue of the New Internationalist the 83% of the population which the South African government calls 'non-white' (i.e. Coloured, Asian or African) is called 'black'.

With a little help from their friends

A Kenyan executive in the driving seat. Managing in the interests of his country or corporation?

Photo: Margaret Murray

Corporate investment in the Third World is no longer a simple matter of planning the factory, signing some documents and posing for photographs with the relevant government minister. Developing countries are increasingly insisting on certain conditions before letting international companies set up shop. Foremost amongst their demands is local employment - not only unskilled jobs but also senior managerial positions. And often there is an insistence on sharing the profits of the proposed venture by permitting nationals, and sometimes the government, to own a substantial number of the shares in the concern.

Stiff terms? Possibly. Certainly such demands have caused a lot of friction between governments and foreign businesses in the past. But the more flexible and forward-looking corporations have found that native managers and local government shareholding in their overseas operations can work to their advantage. At worse, it can mean little more than a facade of local control and ownership while allowing the foreign firms to effectively silence cries of exploitation. Nevertheless, corporate partnerships with Third World governments for 'mutually beneficial' goals are increasing. And with 50 per cent of the shares locally owned, how can multinational subsidiaries possibly act against the interests of the country where they are based? When local people run the company, the proposition seems even more absurd.

Evidence from Kenya contradicts this. It shows that in negotiation with foreign business, officials are often willing to sell their national interest short. Outside control can remain as tight as ever, sometimes with the added benefit of inside information. Company profits, shared by the local elites, are seldom seen by ordinary citizens of the country.

Canadian economist Steven Langdon surveyed more than seventy international corporate subsidiaries doing business in Kenya. These companies were given easy access to the country soon after independence in the 1960s. Today, control of the economy is in few hands; the biggest twenty companies in Langdon's survey have 86 per cent share of all national business investment. Few of them are constrained by competition. More than 60 per cent hold a virtual monopoly in the main product they sell - helped by high tariffs on foreign imports that might undercut their prices. And all this has occurred with, the consent of the Kenyan government.

Of course, when foreign businesses are negotiating for a share of the Kenyan market, they bring a lot of firepower to the bargaining table. Kenya requires highly skilled people to gather and analyse information in order to assess the proposals of foreign corporations and bargain effectively. They frankly admit they have too few such people, spread too thinly. On the other side, corporate negotiators are skilled specialists, with easy access to information and the experience of parent company operations elsewhere to guide them. The corporations also control much of the technology required to develop new industries. Third World governments find it difficult to bargain for such knowhow, since they can't fully assess its importance. And behind the corporate investor is the power of their institutional allies: trade federations, cartels and sympathetic Western governments. 'Even if the days of gunboat diplomacy are over,' Langdon observes, 'the involvement in a business dispute of the governments of such large aid donors as the U.K., the U.S. and West Germany, seems to lead to settlements that favour the British, American and German firms involved.' 'I get on the 'phone to Kenyans if I need to,' said one British High Commission official in Nairobi, 'That's why we're given entertainment allowances - so that we know someone who knows so-and-so who is dealing with it, when the issues come up.'

It is against these odds that Third World negotiators must bargain when trying to get the best deal for their nation.

The Kenyans appear to have done particularly well in their insistence on a local share of the equity holdings in foreign concerns. Indeed, 75 per cent of the multinational subsidiaries in Kenya have local shareholders. More than half are in partnership with the government. But shareholding does not mean control. Two-thirds of the companies with hefty local ownership of shares in the Langdon survey still had their corporate investment, spending and recruitment decisions controlled by an overseas head office. Contact with the overseas head office remained close, with managers regularly flying in and out of Nairobi for foreign training and consultations. It appears that Kenya's multinationals are more part of the plans of the global corporations than planners in their own right.

Indeed, government participation appears to have protected rather than limited the interests of foreign corporations. Langdon quotes one firm which insisted on government shareholding, 'to assure that we have got absolute protection, because the day we are in the market and we see anyone else coming in, we are ready to hammer on the government's door and say "Look, it's your money, you've got to protect it." '

The financial benefits of government participation are not widely shared. The Industrial and Commercial Development Corporation is the main aim of government investment. Its shareholders are described as a 'roll-call of the Kikuyu middle class'.

The relationship between Kenya and foreign investors is warm. It's helped by the 'Africanisation' policy - foreigners working in Kenyan subsidiaries were cut by 80 per cent between 1967 and 1972. A dramatic turn-about for multinational recruitment policy and a triumph for the local negotiators. But who benefits from this? Obviously the individuals employed do. Most foreign firms offer managerial salaries that are fixed on an international scale. They are far above locally realistic rates of pay. Such remuneration benefits others: bids up local wages and provides an excuse for higher government and civil servant pay.

The multinationals benefit from 'Afri-canisation' too. Langdon argues that the loyalty of black executives is most often to the company. 'Kenyan born executives are intitiated on a worldwide basis, by training and consultations abroad, as they take on more senior positions.'

This Kenyan elite ensures the smooth running of business operations by providing a direct route to the government's top decision makers. As one foreign manager interviewed by Langdon says: 'This is another reason why we are giving Kenyan citizens good chances to get along in our company . . . they're all Kikuyu names,mind you. And we certainly find these chaps all know the people in government. They all went to the Alliance High School together; they all went here together and there together. This helps us a lot. If we have problems about getting a license organised or, you know, you have to find your way around, these chaps can usually find their way around.' Such informal backdoor connections weaken the position of the national negotiators with foreign business. One embassy official noted that 'some companies get away with murder here, because their top man has good personal relations with the people who matter.' Key decisions are wrested from government institutions and bargains struck in private.

In 1969 Firestone Tires outmanoeuvred both its competitors and government negotiators by meeting privately with the Ministers involved. The company clinched a tire-manufacturing project, where there were outrageous Kenyan concessions including

* a ban on all other tire imports * the right to decide on tire prices, despite the monopoly position * government financial participation in the project to the extent that Firestone desired.

One of Firestone's major concessions was an undertaking to bring prominent Africans, including a former Cabinet Minister, onto its managerial staff.

Kenya has become a powerful example of the collusion of interests between foreign corporations and local decision­makers. That alliance has done little to lessen the disparities of income, still less the widespread poverty in the country. Instead an important group of government representatives, senior civil servants and business executives have found their interests lie far more with the international economy than with the self-reliant development of their nation.

* 'The Multinational Corporation in the Kenya Political Economy' by Steven Langdon, Dept. of Economies, Carleton College, Ottawa. Published in 'Readings on the Multinational Corporation in Kenya' ed. Raphael Kaplinsky.

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