The timing of the deputy president’s intervention coincided with The Economist’s denunciation of South Africa’s foreign policy as “clueless and immoral”, contrasting the government’s refusal to grant a visa to the Dalai Lama with whisking away Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir from the African Union summit, and highlighting the irrational belief that trade with China depends on hostility towards the West which, ironically, remains South Africa’s largest trading partner.
And that article was, in turn, linked to the release of the ANC’s National General Council 2015 foreign policy discussion document, outlining a role for the party as a member of the “international revolutionary movement to liberate humanity from the bondage of imperialism and neo-colonialism”, and declaring the ANC’s staunch support for China and Russia.
The document is most notable for its portrayal of the US as ‘imperialist’ and ‘aggressive’, and of the ANC’s role as ‘progressive’, a term repeated 25 times. There is a new sense of urgency assigned to this role. From the party’s vantage: “The sudden collapse of socialism in the world altered completely the balance of forces in favour of imperialism. It ushered in a new world hegemonic era of global socio-economic agenda of capitalism and free market imperatives.” Rather than embracing this new world, which has seen unprecedented reductions in poverty numbers worldwide, the document argues that this has to be undone. In the 20 years from the end of the Cold War, those living in poverty fell by half as a share of the total population in developing countries to 21%, a reduction of nearly 1-billion people. Yet the document says: “Imperialism has plunged humanity into a perpetual socio-economic crisis”. It adds: “The high levels of poverty, inequality, unemployment, disease and underdevelopment confirm our long held view that the capitalist market economy cannot resolve its own contradictions.”