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Ngonyama, Percy  (2006) Nepad can never be a solution to Africa's problems. Centre for Civil Society : -.

The Cape Times of Thursday April 27 published ‘Nepad on track to tackle
poverty and development’- an edited version of Lindiwe Sisulu’s address at
the National Nepad strategy workshop delivered at the upmarket Sandton
Convention Centre on Wednesday April 19.

The unedited version of her speech is available on:

In this era whereby the public, due to ignorance and desperation, accept as
THE ultimate truth anything emanating from government circles, it is
extremely imperative to counter such well- premeditated government

“Nepad is a pledge by African leaders, based on a common vision and a firm
and shared conviction, that they have a pressing duty to eradicate poverty
and to place their countries on a path of sustainable growth, and to
participate actively as Africans in the world economy”, she asserts.

Sustainable growth? Utter nonsense! The South African economy has managed to grow impressively in the last twelve years, but the growth has not been sustainable.

Rapid economic growth in South Africa has only benefited the rich, and
helped increase the gap between the haves and the have-nots. Along side
Brazil, South Africa remains a highly unequal society in as far as wealth
redistribution is concerned.

Unfortunately, Nepad, which Sisulu arrogantly claims will “tackle poverty
and underdevelopment” emphasises more of this. It is therefore no wonder
that conservative governments like the Bush and Blair administrations, and
international capitalists and anti poor institutions, like the World Bank,
IMF and the G8, have widely applauded it.

Sisulu’s address is very much in line with government’s newly adopted
‘unofficial’ policy of ‘talking left’ while ‘walking right’. The pro-poor
rhetoric in her speech has also been adopted in communicating to the
unsuspecting public government’s other neo-liberal initiatives: from GEAR to JIPSA.

SA’s “uniquely vibrant” private sector is seen as an advantage. It is this over-reliance on the private sector that contributes to the appalling
socio-economic conditions. Essential services have been commodified and the public sector has been drastically reduced. As a result, basic services have become extremely unaffordable for the poorest masses.

An extended public sector and government’s increased involvement in the
economy is what is required to address the growing unemployment crisis.
Nepad promotes the opposite. Trade liberalisation is emphasised to attract
foreign investment.

The EPWP, which the government has introduced to ‘tackle’ the unemployment virus has very serious shortcomings. In line with government’s wider pro-business policies, it puts the task of ‘infrastructure’ and ‘skills’ development at the hands of the private sector. The private sector’s primary aim is not to meet the needs of the destitute, but to increase shareholder profits and investment.

The African Peer Review Mechanism, demanded by the West and big business as a pre-condition for their financial support of Nepad, remains a comedy more hilarious than some of America’s highly recommended comedies. The likes of Mugabe and Mswati continue to violate their citizens’ human rights with impunity.

Nepad proposes debt relief for the so-called ‘highly indebted’ poor African
countries. Various progressive African scholars and organisations have
criticised this initiative saying it excludes a lot of poor countries.

Progressive formations, in their justified rejection of the HIPC initiative,
have instead called for a 100% unconditional cancellation of the
‘illegitimate’ debt.

These are loans, which the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and other international banking consortiums made to totalitarian regimes such as the apartheid regime in South Africa, the brutal Mobutu regime in the DRC, the military juntas of Nigeria, and other such illegitimate governments.

In the months leading up to the World Conference Against Racism and related intolerances in Durban in 2000, within the poors, various struggles for reparations for slavery, colonialism and apartheid, were gaining momentum.

However, as a result of the South African government’s collusion with
Washington and London, this issue, even to the dismay of other African
delegates, was excluded from the intergovernmental final declaration.

Considering that reparations and ‘illegitimate’ debt- very crucial for
Africa’s development- are not mentioned in the Nepad document, it is
therefore very laughable for Sisulu to claim that Nepad is for the poor
masses, and to encourage civil society support for the programme.

Reparations and the cancellation/repudiation of the ‘illegitimate’ debt
would free Africa from reliance on foreign aid, which comes with serious
political and economic conditions that grossly affect the working class.

The continued plundering of Africa’s resources by rich countries of the
north remains a huge factor in increasing poverty levels on the continent.
It is not the people of the Niger Delta that benefit from Nigeria’s huge oil
reserves, but foreign multinational oil companies.

The poor people of the war-ravaged DRC have not benefited from that
country’s natural resources, but global corporations. This has been the
trend in most African countries endowed with natural resources.

Nepad is silent on such injustices and the reality that most countries
constituting the G8, which Sisulu and other proponents of Nepad see as a
strategic partner, continue to make record profits by selling arms to
Africa, thus fuelling conflicts and underdevelopment.

The very ‘internalisation’ of Africa’s economies, which is being promoted, has had serious repercussions. Local businesses, determined to compete globally, have embarked on ‘cost-reduction’ measures that have witnessed the shedding of many jobs.

In South Africa, using the broad definition, there is currently a nine
million strong ‘reserve army’ of labour. With every aspect of our life
having been commodified, these are people whose constitutionally guaranteed right to basic services remain elusive.

Indeed, as Sisulu herself admits, the “vulnerable poor masses who continue
to suffer poverty, disease and hunger ……..have very modest expectations”
Notwithstanding such promising rhetoric, people’s most modest
“expectations”, such as descent houses, access to clean water, education and energy, have not been met.

African politicians, if they are serious about sustainable development and
tackling poverty, should consider following the recent example of some Latin American countries.

There is a progressive ‘wind of change’ sweeping though that continent,
which is, undoubtedly, providing the entire underdeveloped world with an
alternative to the ‘Washington Consensus’.

Radical reforms, including the nationalisation of natural gas industries and
the banning of deep sea fishing to benefit local fishermen, have been
adopted, by recently elected ‘pro-people’ governments in countries such as
Bolivia and Venezuela, to the benefit of the poorest of the poor.

Nepad, with its unyielding loyalty to the free market economic systerm, is a
step backwards which can never be a solution to the continent’s appalling
socio-economic conditions.

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