The Trans-Nationals At
War In Africa
By Rixon Stewart
07 May 2001
Just in case you thought colonialism had come
to an end in Africa, think again, it has simply changed
its name. In a
sense the leopard has changed its spots. Instead of being
ruled by the former colonial powers Africa is now effectively
owned and controlled by the Transnational corporations;
in much the same way that the Dutch East India company once
owned and controlled a large part of the British Empire's
dominion in India.
A few years ago, South Africa's Anglo American
corporation owned or effectively controlled over 80% of
on the Joburg stock exchange. Even before the transition
to majority rule Anglo American played a key role in South
Africa's affairs. Today its role is even more pronounced.
South Africa's premier Thabo Mbeki may be black and talk
about 'his people' but underneath it all he is very much
an Anglo American man. During my time in South Africa he
was a frequent visitor to Anglo's operations head Bobby
Godsell's residence in Hyde Park, Joburg. The two would often
on fishing trips together; in effect Mbeki was being groomed
for his current position.
Mandela, on the other hand, was
simply a puppet figure. I knew an Indian there who in turn
knew two of Mandela's senior
advisors; according to him, they described Mandela as a
'dom kop', literally a thick head who could be easily manipulated
and beguiled. He was simply used to pave the way for someone
who would obediently do the Trans-national's bidding, a
man, like Thabo Mbeki.
Elsewhere in Africa the fundamentals
are the same even though the names, personalities and circumstances
may differ somewhat,
outwardly at least. Effectively the Trans-nationals rule
through corrupt despots, brutal but easily beguiled tyrants
or through the discrete manipulation of humanitarian tragedies
One such is the ongoing humanitarian tragedy
in Angola. The current crisis has its origins over thirty
years ago when
Angola was still a Portuguese colony. At the forefront
of the fight to rid Angola of its colonial rulers were two
UNITA and the MPLA. Whilst Jonas Savimbi's UNITA was backed
by Western powers, the MPLA was armed and equipped by the
former Soviet Union; although both were fighting the Portuguese
colonialists, they remained at odds with each other. Thirty
years on and nothing has changed. UNITA and the MPLA government
are still at odds and currently engaged in their third
civil war in as many decades. Hundreds of thousands have
to flee their homes. As of December 1998 there were an
estimated 600,000 internally displaced people in Angola and,
last count, that figure had swollen to 1.7 million.
the figures themselves make extremely somber reading;1/3
of all children in Angola die before the age of 5. Every
day around 200 people die of starvation. Angola now has
the lowest life expectancy in the world, at around 42.
however, one critical difference to the situation, with
the demise of the former Soviet Union there is no longer
any superpower involvement. Instead, the Trans-nationals
have stepped into the fray. In spite of the ongoing horrors
and humanitarian tragedy, Angola itself is phenomenally
rich in mineral deposits, particularly oil and diamonds.
this largely accounts for the involvement of the Transnational
corporations. On the one hand, UNITA supplies diamonds
to De Beers, which in turn controls over 80% of the world's
diamond market. Of course De Beers says it will not buy
diamonds from UNITA but on the diamond market there is
no way that De Beers would know where the diamonds it buys
from with any certainty. In turn, UNITA uses the money
from its diamond sales for weapons purchases and such like.
the other hand, Angola has substantial oil reserves, particularly
offshore and in the northern Cabinda province,
both of which
are firmly in the hands of the ruling MPLA. Security
around the oil installations is further boosted by the oil
themselves, which employ the likes of London-based Sandline
Security as 'security consultants', in plain language,
Mobil, Elf, Shell, Texaco and Chevron are amongst
a few of the major oil companies actively engaged in operations
Angola; in effect they are helping to finance the MPLA's
We always take losses, then recover," one Angolan General
told the BBC last year. "If we lose a tank we pick up
the phone and order another one."
Elsewhere in Africa,
a similar situation prevails.
last year oil companies in the Niger delta were accused of
turning a blind eye to human rights abuses. "The
oil companies can't pretend they don't know what is happening
around them," said Kenneth Roth, executive director
of Human Rights Watch, an international monitoring group
based in New York.
In one particular incident, in January 1999, soldiers using
Chevron boats and Chevron helicopters attacked villages in
two small communities in Delta State, killing villagers and
burning most of the villages to the ground.
A Human Rights
Watch report describes numerous such incidents where Nigerian
security forces have beaten, detained or even
killed those involved in protests over oil company activity
or called for compensation for environmental damage.
remember that when you next fill up at your local petrol
station; the petrol you are buying has already been
paid for, literally with 'blood money.'
However, it is not
simply the Transnational Corporations that have embarked
on policies that are little short of imperialistic.
Zimbabwe, for example, now has around 11,000 troops stationed
in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
According to John Makumbe,
a political scientist at the University of Zimbabwe and a
fierce critic of the government, "Zimbabwe
seems intent on raiding the Congo and making it an economic
colony." According to him: "It won't be Zimbabwe
as a nation that benefits. Instead a number of individuals
in the political elite will enrich themselves."
Zimbabwe's army has now embarked on a joint business venture
with the Congolese army to buy and sell diamonds
However, Zimbabwe's involvement in the war
in the Congo is deeply unpopular at home, not least because
problems; inflation stands at 70%, health services are
Finally, it should be noted that Ian Smith
one time premier of the rebel state Rhodesia, recently addressed
at the University of Zimbabwe. Significantly perhaps, he
was removed from power in a deal arranged by Lord Carrington
and Henry Kissinger. Now in his eighties and a little frail,
Smith received a standing ovation from a packed hall of largely
black students. As journalist Russell Miller pointed out
it is now not unusual to hear what would have once been unthinkable
from many blacks in Zimbabwe: namely that life was actually
better under Ian Smith than Zimbabwe's present rulers.© The
News Insider 2001Rixon Stewart was born in 1954, the son
of a mixed race South African father and a white English
mother. In 1970 he left school and a year later left England
and joined his family in South Africa. In 1977, in search
of action and adventure, he left South Africa and went north
to what was then Rhodesia and eventually joined the Rhodesian
ArmyÆs Special Forces. Thereafter he travelled to other
parts of southern Africa, eventually returning to South Africa
prior to the ANC's assumption of power. Today he lives in
England and occupies himself as a writer, editor and publisher.
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