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The Kwerekwere are stealing our jobs! Instead, stop the wars…

Terry Crawford-Browne

Terry Crawford-Browne is a former international banker who became a peace activist during the 1980s. He lives in Cape Town.

Renewed xenophobic violence in South Africa has appalled the world. The violence is directed at black African refugees, not white beneficiaries of the past apartheid era, yet reminiscent of the apartheid era, the response of a bewildered government is to send the army into affected townships, rather than address the root causes of massive migrations in Africa.

The Guardian newspaper reported in England “with every outbreak of xenophobic violence, the refrain is the same: ‘the kwerekwere (foreigners) are stealing our jobs. Shops are torched. Streets are barricaded... Mobs hound Somalis, Mozambicans, Zimbabweans, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis from their homes and businesses.”i

Millions of African refugees have literally walked to South Africa to escape wars inflicted upon their countries. These wars are compounded by political repression of dictatorships kept in office by the United States and the CIA. In 1961, the CIA orchestrated the murder of Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, and kept the kleptomaniac Joseph Mobutu in power until 1997. In April 2015, under the guise of a democratic election, the US helped to reinstate Nigeria’s former military dictator, Muhammadu Buhari.ii Despite objections from almost all African countries, the US has established a military command termed AFRICOM. It is headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany because no country has allowed it to be based on the African continent. The “blow-back” consequences include huge numbers of refugees plus economic and political destabilisation of host countries.

In South Africa, the number of Zimbabwean refugees is estimated at between one and four million people. The actual numbers are unknown, but it is possible that South Africa is hosting more refugees than any other country. Officially, the rate of unemployment in South Africa is 25% but, in reality, is about 40% and rises to 70% among young people. The kwerekwere, including huge numbers of Congolese refugees, tend to be better educated and are often self-employed. It is estimated that “only” 15% are unemployed. However, reprehensible xenophobic violence expresses misdirected and pent-up fury; in South Africa, impoverished victims of the apartheid system remain impoverished. Reflecting the government’s disastrous education, health and economic policies since 1994, the gap between rich and poor South Africans is wider than ever, and is the worst in the world. Food riots and crime driven by poverty rather than xenophobia per se have been the cause of many of the attacks on Somali shops.

Follow the money...

The apartheid government and its army served as surrogate in southern Africa for the “first world” during the Cold War. The “frontline states” of Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and the Congo were deliberately destabilised at a cost of over one and a half million lives plus massive damage to economic infrastructure.iii

In Congo, between five and ten million have subsequently died since 1997 in what is known as “Africa’s First World War”. The root cause of this violence is the looting of the Congo’s mineral wealth by “first world” corporations in collusion with European and North American governments.iv With former British Prime Minister Tony Blair as his friend and advisor, Rwanda’s dictator Paul Kagame has ruthlessly devastated the Congo.v

In South Africa, almost three years have now elapsed since the August 2012 Marikana massacre at the Lonmin platinum mine, when 34 miners were murdered. The massacre exposed the incompetence and brutality of the police, but also the unconscionable greed of Lonmin’s British owners. The political complicity reaches to South Africa’s Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is a shareholder and non-executive director, and a rand billionaire.vi The resulting inquiry has revealed that Lonmin was engaged in extensive transfer pricing practices via Bermuda and other British “treasure island” tax havens to avoid payment of South African taxes. Instead of annual tax of over US$200 million for the years 2006 to 2008, these ploys enabled Lonmin to reduce its tax bill to US$8 million.

These transfer payments deliberately drained Lonmin of funds that otherwise could have been used to pay living wages to illiterate and impoverished miners, who risk their lives underground to feed their families.vii Lonmin illustrates the economic plunder throughout the African continent repeatedly highlighted by the annual UN “Africa Progress” reports, which in 2013 focused on natural resources as a potential source of future economic prosperity. Natural resources, it noted, do not cause war, but weak government, under development and violent conflict are accentuated when foreign investors abuse their power by tax evasion and money laundering.viii

Like Lonmin, Shell’s extraction of oil from Nigeria since the 1950s has had devastating social a environmental consequences. The company has worked closely with successive Nigerian governments to suppress popular opposition to its presence. Oil has enriched a small elite and unleashed massive corruption, but the vast majority of 180 million Nigerians have been left in poverty. The activist Ken Saro-Wiwa was hanged in 1995 for his role in exposing Shell’s crimes. Litigation was filed against Shell in US under the Alien Tort Actix but, just days before the case went to trial in 2009, it was settled out-of-court against payment to his family of US$15 million.

Buhari’s return to power raises the spectre of never-ending military coups, and of Nigeria reverting to a garrison state beholden to British and American banks and corporations. Will Nigeria become Africa’s next “failed state” and, if so, what will be the consequences for Europe?

An Anglo-American obsession to control the world…

South Africa’s abhorrent migrant labour practices stem from the 19th century, but remain essentially unchanged. They can rightly be described as war profiteering. They originated with the British imperialist, Cecil Rhodes who made his fortune on South African diamonds and gold. Virtuously cloaked in the cause of world peace, Rhodes’s vision in 1877 was of the “English-speaking race so powerful and so overwhelming as to render all wars simply impossible.” In what was then deemed as the British civilising mission around the globe, Rhodes dreamt of:

“the extension of British rule throughout the world, the perfecting of a system of emigration from the United Kingdom and of colonisation by British subjects of all lands and especially the entire continent of Africa, the Holy Land and the valley of the Euphrates, the whole of South America, the islands of the Pacific not heretofore possessed by Great Britain, the seaboard of China and Japan, and the ultimate recovery of the United States of America as an integral part of the British Empire.”x

Statue of Cecil Rhodes is removed from Cape Town universityStatue of Cecil Rhodes is removed from Cape Town universityIn pursuit of that vision, Rhodes Scholarships - established just before Rhodes died in Cape Town in 1902 - are arguably still the most prestigious, and are disproportionately allocated to Americans to anglicise them at Oxford University. Rhodes’s statue continued to occupy pride of place on the University of Cape Town campus. In March this year, students embarked on a “Rhodes Must Fall” campaign; their tactics were outrageous and smelly, but nonviolent and effective. Human faeces – shit collected from shacks inhabited by the poorest-of-the-poor – were poured over Rhodes’s statue, which within a month had symbolically 'fallen', and was removed.

Nonetheless, South Africa and the world still suffer the consequences of imperialist wars of which Rhodes was the personification. The City of London is often described as the most corrupt square mile anywhere on the planet Earth.

International war profiteers…

Thousands of miles to the north of South Africa, thousands of African and Asian migrants are drowning in the Mediterranean Sea in desperate attempts to escape wars inflicted upon their countries and resultant destitution. The European Union’s “Fortress Europe” mentality treats refugees as criminals and as “the enemy.”xi

Libya (the land of my youth) is a country in turmoil because the US, Britain and France so mindlessly launched a war in 2011 after Muammar Gaddafi demanded payment in gold for Libya’s oil exports. Only months earlier, the British and French were competing to sell more arms to Libya and negotiate new oil concessions.

Likewise, the war against Iraq was launched in 2003 because Saddam Hussein had the audacity to demand payment for oil in euros instead of US dollars. During the 1980s - after the Iranian Revolution - Saddam dutifully served US and European interests in waging an eight year war against Iran – until the costs of their massive weapons supplies bankrupted Iraq.xii

British Prince Charles, in Saudi Arabia the day before a huge contract was signed with BAE SystemsBritish Prince Charles, in Saudi Arabia the day before a huge contract was signed with BAE SystemsPrime Minister David Cameron and members of the British royal family repeatedly promote both arms exports and London’s banking services, ostensibly for job creation benefits. xiii The reality is that both the British arms industry and its banking industry are virtually without regulation, are highly subsidised, and scream vociferously whenever regulation is suggested.

When Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah died earlier this year, politicians – including Cameron and President Barack Obama -- flocked to Riyadh to pay obeisance to what is arguably the world’s most barbaric regime. The House of Saud were bandits until elevated to royalty by the British and later, after the discovery of oil, adopted by the Americans. The US, British and German governments shamelessly pander to the power of Saudi money in the most depraved of Faustian bargains.

In alliance with the US and Gulf state sheikdoms, Saudi Arabia has now launched a war against the people of Yemen. The violent consequences of fundamentalist Wahhabite Islamic theology – including Boko Haram in Nigeria, Al Shabaab in Somalia and Kenya, and ISIS in the Arab world -- almost all funded by Saudis at an estimated cost of US$130 billion, are daily evident on our television screens.xiv

Readers will recall that Blair in 2006 squelched a British Serious Fraud Office investigation into bribes paid by BAE to Saudi princes, insisting that the investigation threatened British national security. The reality is that Blair and BAE were negotiating an extension of the notoriously corrupt £43 billion Al Yamamah arms deal negotiated in 1985 between Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Saudi Prince Bandar. It transpired that BAE had paid bribes to Prince Bandar of over £1 billion with the assistance and complicity of the British Ministry of Defence, laundered through the US banking systemxv. In addition, BAE gave him his own private Airbus as a birthday present.

The Al Yamamah and subsequent Al Salam deals contain provisions which cannot be investigated or revealed in terms of Britain’s Official Secrets Act. xvi Hopefully a future Julian Assange or Edward Snowden will blow the whistle on the details? What is known is that Saudi Arabia consigns huge quantities of oil to the Bank of England, which then distributes that oil to BP and to Shell.

In terms of these arrangements, a massive fund administered by the Bank of England has accumulated, which is estimated to amount to US$150 billion. Its purpose is threefold:

  • To guarantee British and US support for the Saudi royal family against domestic insurrection,

  • to ensure that international trade in oil is priced in US dollars, thus placing the world on a dollar standard and enabling the US to finance its unchallengeable military power, and

  • to fund covert destabilisation of resource-rich countries in Asia and Africa.

When communism no longer posed a threat, the war business created a new threat in Islam. As successor to the British Empire, US imperialism engages in deliberate war-mongering to promote an era of perpetual war in the 21st century. Bizarre realities include “Charlie Wilson’s war” in Afghanistan and the false-flag American alliance with Syrian Al Qaeda operatives in failed efforts to destroy the Assad regime preparatory to a joint Saudi and Israeli war against Iran.

The tragic consequences of US destabilisation are now evident in chaos across Asia from Bangladesh to Syria, and across Africa from Somalia to Senegal. The underlying issue remains the plunder of natural resources, especially oil. It is encouraged by obscene expenditures on armaments. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Egypt and Iraq are expected to spend more than US$18 billion on armaments in 2015, up from US$12 billion in 2014.xvii The war business is plainly out of control.

Migration and xenophobia…

The blow-back costs of “first world” war-mongering are at last impacting even in Europe- as many as 1.6 million refugees from Syria and elsewhere are reportedly waiting in Turkey to enter Europe. To date, England has provided refuge for only 150 Syrian refugees, yet The Sun newspaper there disgracefully suggests that gunships should be deployed to sink refugee boats, and described the refugees themselves as “cockroaches.”xviii An estimated 300,000 refugees will apply for asylum in Germany during 2015 compared with 200,000 last year, and neo-Nazis are already fire-bombing refugee centres.xix That even the wealthiest country in Europe is struggling to deal with such modest numbers, it should be no surprise that the influx of millions of refugees has caused major difficulties in South Africa.

Will Africa be America’s next battleground?

Somalia is a “failed state” as a direct consequence of the Cold War. Yet undeterred by dismal failures of US military interventions around the world since 1945, AFRICOM is making contingency plans on assumptions of an “Islamic State of Africa,” spread across the Continent. Billions of dollars have been pumped into construction of bases, weapons exports, proxy wars, assassinations, including mainly secret 674 military activities in Africa during 2014 in efforts to blunt Chinese investment and influence.xx

The population of Africa is projected at one and a half billion people by 2025, about one-third of whom will be under the age of 18. Given their desperation, the risks of drowning in the Mediterranean will certainly not deter refugees from seeking a better life in Europe.

 

Notes

i Kate Wilkinson (2015, April 20). “South Africa’s Xenophobic Attacks: Are Migrants Really Stealing Jobs?” The Guardian.

ii Thomas Gaist, (2015, Apirl 1). “Former Military Dictator Muhammadu Buhari Wins Nigerian Presidency,” Global Research.

iii “South African Destabilisation: The Economic Cost of Frontline Resistance To Apartheid,” (1989), United Nations, New York.

iv Jan Van Criegkinge, (2006, December 1). “ Congo (DRC) and War Profiteers: A Tragedy Forgotten by the Global Peace Movement,” War Profiteers News #4, London.

v David Smith, (2012, October 10). Paul Kagame’s Rwanda: African Success Or Authoritarian State, The Guardian.

vi “Miners Shot Down,” (2014). An 86 minute documentary film by Rehad Desai, Uhuru Productions (Pty) Ltd, Johannesburg, www.minersshotdown.co.za

vii Dick Forslund (2014). “The Bermuda Connection: Profit Shifting and Unaffordability at Lonmin 1999-2012,” Alternative Information and Development Centre, Cape Town.

viii www.africaprogressreport.

ix Ed Pilkington, (2009, May 27). “14 years After Ken Saro-Wiwa’s Death, Family Points Finger At Shell In Court,” The Guardian.

x Steven P Meyer, (2009, January 27). “How British Imperialists Created The Fascist Jabotinsky,” Executive Intelligence Review.

xi Kenan Malik, (2015, April 21). “Migrants Face Fortress Europe’s Deadly Moat,” New York Times.

xii Kenneth R. Timmerman, (1992). “The Death Lobby: How The West Armed Iraq,” Bantam Books, London

xiii “Cameron Defends Arms Deals In Gulf,” (2012, November 12). Huffington Post.

xiv Jon B Alterman and William McCants, (2012). “Saudi Arabia: Islamists Rising And Falling.” http://csis.org/files/publication/141215_Chapter6_Alterman_McCants_ReligiousRadicalism.pdf

xv David Leigh and Rob Evans, (2007, June 7). “BAE Accused Of Secretly Paying £1bn To Saudi Prince,” The Guardian.

xvi William Simpson, (2006). The Prince: The Secret Story Of The World’s Most Intriguing Royal, HarperCollins Publishers, New York, pages 133-151.

xvii Peter Beaumont, (2015, April 23). “The $18 bn Arms Race Helping To Fuel Middle East Conflict,” The Guardian.

xviii Yiannis Baboulias, (2015, April 21). “Europe’s Refugee Policy Is Broken,” Al Jazeera.

xix Alison Smale, (2015, April 22). “Germany’s Small Towns Feel The Cost Of Europe’s Migrant Crisis,” New York Times.

xx Nick Turse, (2014, April 14). “The US Military’s Battlefield Of Tomorrow,” TomDispatch.com.

 

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