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In its desperation to be viewed as an international economic powerhouse, South Africa was quick to jump on the Brics bandwagon.
As a member of Brics (an informal coalition comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), we seem to have fooled ourselves into believing we have a major impact on the world’s economies. This is akin to believing in the Easter Bunny.
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What have we really gained from posing as a Brics member? Have our people been given advantages they didn’t previously have? Did it offer a much-needed boost to our failing industries? Has our extractable resource industry been given new life?
If so, under which rock are the results being hidden?
If Brics was such a great idea, why are our industries closing down, investors leaving and our imports from China increasing?
Why are the battalions of unemployed growing and why are we edging ever closer to total economic failure?
Despite Russia’s recent exclusion from the world’s economies, China’s is still strong, India’s is growing, and Brazil is conducting an economic push into Africa and other continents. So where are we? We are still the minor player with major aspirations – and our economy is dying.
Probably more importantly, why has South Africa ignored Africa and allowed itself to be viewed as a country which has economically and politically abandoned the continent? Our disastrous foreign policy has highlighted that we look down on Africa, except when we want to vie for senior positions at the African Union table.
Not content to be just an economic bloc, Brics has also ventured into the political environment. At its summit in Yekaterinburg, it called for a more “democratic and just multipolar world order based on the rule of international law, equality, mutual respect, cooperation, coordinated action and collective decision-making of all states”.
But there are elements of this declaration the South African government has ignored or forgotten about – ignoring law, equality and mutual respect. In fact, where the government can, it tramples on these.
If Brics was meant to rejuvenate or re-energise a dying South African economy, it hasn’t.
These were merely slogans to bring hope to the hopeless, as a result of government ineptitude and through dysfunctional policies and incompetence.
There never was a plan to leverage Brics to the advantage of the citizens of South Africa.
Instead, it was viewed as just another gravy train our ruling elite could jump onto.
South Africa remains caught between its proclaimed Brics solidarity and the ruling party’s struggle-era friendship with the collapsed Soviet Union’s Russia.
It reinforces this dire love affair with its principled opposition to Western capitalism – except when it needs to go begging for more money.
But have our Brics partners served us well? When the ambitions of Brazil and India – and later South Africa – to become permanent members of an enlarged United Nations (UN) Security Council were mooted, permanent members Russia and China were remarkably quiet.
However, we loved and bought into the idea of the Brics club as we also saw it as a path to challenge the uncontested dominance of the US, UK and Europe.
The ruling party abstained from voting against a Brics partner that had declared its intent in Ukraine.
So much for subscribing to the Brics statement to support a “just multipolar world order based on the rule of international law”.
Also Read: Dirco meets with Ukraine ambassador days after abstaining from UN vote
Although the department of international relations and cooperation (Dirco) quickly condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it was hurriedly rapped over the knuckles and instructed by the ruling party to withdraw its condemnation.
Ironically, Dirco has remained silent on the many conflicts raging across Africa, refusing to condemn them and the destruction they bring about.
Believing itself to be a superpower, South Africa’s recent abstentions showed the world what it is already beginning to suspect: it willingly chooses to stand on the wrong side of history. It has also shown it does not understand history, but that is evident when there exists a huge education deficit among many of its senior members.
The Brics love affair has added to the fading of the Mandela magic we were fortunate to experience for a few years.
The vagueness, inconsistency and contradictory comments the ruling party offers when a Brics member acts contrary to international law or is being investigated for war crimes is astonishing. Is Brics worth it?
One can only hope the day will come when SA, instead of putting Brics first, starts putting the people and the country first.
It’s time the government stopped its fence-sitting domestic and foreign policies before it is blown off by the wind. But that would be wishful thinking.