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The Road To Ussa

South Africa

new internationalist
issue 208 - June 1990

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The road to USSA
Once apartheid is gone, what then? Mozambican journalist Carlos
puts the case for a United States of Southern Africa.

I was overjoyed when South Africa unbanned the African National Congress - which has spearheaded the struggle against apartheid - and released Mr Nelson Mandela. But I also felt wary. The end of apartheid may be in sight but Southern Africa as a whole faces many dangers amid the turmoils of transition to a new South Africa. Not least, there is the serious possibility of total disintegration in the region.

Already in Mozambique, the South African-sponsored Renamo forces have left such wanton destruction that entire areas have returned to warlords. The central government has little or no power in regions where these chiefs now prevail. Neither has Renamo. The same is true in the South African province of Natal where bandits are rampant.

This kind of fragmentation could become commonplace since South Africa itself is a hotch-potch of peoples divided by traditional customs which have been maintained by whites through the process of divide and rule.

South Africa's economy is the backbone of the region and, if it collapsed, Southern Africa would plunge into decades of escalating famine and poverty as nations reconsolidated. The borders established in Berlin during 1885 would dissipate as Zulu, Shangaan and the other old nations surfaced - and the Afrikaner ultra-right tried to recreate the old Boer republics.

There is another worry also. When apartheid is formally pronounced dead, Southern Africa will open its doors to South Africa enabling that country's ruling class to consolidate its alliance with the region's elites. This is already happening. But if South Africa tries to retain its economic ascendancy - or to monopolize the decision-making processes throughout the region - conditions will be ripe for more war.

The future of all Southern Africa therefore depends on our coming up with regional mechanisms to stop these things happening. Integration, in my opinion, is the only way to guarantee collective independence and avoid a violent future relationship between South and Southern Africa.

Southern Africa should form a federation of nations guided by a regional parliament, with the aim of establishing political, economic and social democracy throughout the entire region. Its inhabitants would enjoy dual citizenship - both national and Southern African.

The political maturity of the frontline states makes integration eminently feasible. So do the ten years of accumulated knowledge on economic co-operation, achieved through the Southern African Development Co-ordination Conference (SADCC). Moreover millions of Southern Africans are already knitted together by extended family ties, giving the region a natural unity to be capitalized upon.

This integrated Southern Africa would need its own army. Over the past 500 years Europe and North America's behaviour on the world stage has been very violent. Much of Renamo's support comes from West Germany and Portugal. And Western arms spending suggests that it seeks a few more centuries of world centrality. Everyone hopes this will not be so but, just in case, Southern Africa should have the military muscle to keep future would-be aggressors at bay and to defend its economic and natural riches - which will undoubtedly be in demand. It should therefore have both national armies and a regional force operating under the jurisdiction of the regional parliament.

Naturally this could only happen in the context of serious negotiations to end apartheid. It would require South Africa's state-owned armaments corporation, ARMSCOR, to be democratically owned by SADCC member states. Arms production would be regionally decentralized so that no single country could wield a military upper hand.

With the industrial and technological prowess of an intact post-apartheid South Africa at its heart, Southern Africa would stand a good chance of helping to fashion a more just North-South relationship. That purpose could engage several generations. And it is the direction we must travel in - or Southern Africa will be no more than a footnote of the 21st century.

Carlos Cardoso works for the Mozambique News Agency in Maputo.


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South Africa
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The problem
South Africa's apartheid system drains human and economic resources from all Southern Africa. Frontline states spend vast amounts defending themselves against South Africa. Exports slump and import costs rise as transport routes are disrupted and new ones built to avoid war zones. Thousands of people are dead, homeless or mutilated. Education and healthcare have been ravaged. And famine has come to the region.


The facts

  • South Africa's destabilization programme costs the Frontline States around 25% to 40% of their Gross Domestic Product annually.
  • Destabilization has displaced up to seven million people during the 1980s.


The way forward
Apartheid must give way to black majority rule in South Africa through a negotiated settlement. All of Southern Africa should benefit from the increased resources made available through South Africa's highly developed industry and agriculture. Regional co-operation throughout Southern Africa is the best way to prevent war and develop the region for the benefit of all.

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New Internationalist issue 208 magazine cover This article is from the June 1990 issue of New Internationalist.
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