The White House has a history of hosting communist leaders. Of course, it was always with the knowledge that American Presidents were talking to “the other side,” engaging the (relatively) freer world in conversations with their self-proclaimed enemies. These talks were aimed at forestalling live ammunition exchanges, replacing them with exchanges of words, sometimes harsher, sometimes sweeter.
It was supposed to be a far cry from the current incumbent Joe Biden hosting South Africa’s President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa.
But the meeting didn’t run as smoothly as the White House hoped it would.
The U.S. President’s office kept telling all interested parties (mainstream media, mainly) that Biden “has a long history on South Africa,” whatever they meant by that.
He used to visit when he was a Senator. He held hearings on apartheid in South Africa. He visited again as America’s Vice President.
And, of course, an obligatory ideological titbit: Joe Biden is very committed to and inspired by South Africa’s long struggle for freedom, racial equality, and justice.
Controlling the agenda
The meeting was supposed to concentrate on economic issues.
Ramaphosa, a filthy rich South African businessman and politician, and Biden’s junior by a full decade, changed the topics of the conversation so smoothly his host had huge trouble catching up and keeping up with him.
Officially, the agenda was to include trade, climate change, and energy transition.
Biden blew up on his own petard: he demanded that South Africa lead the rest of the continent out of its neutrality on the issue of Russia’s invasion into Ukraine.
Africa, he claimed, ought to adopt America’s position.
Biden should have noticed (and he clearly didn’t) that when the United Nations voted on a resolution condemning Russia for her actions, the vote passed with so many abstentions it should have triggered serious thought about the resolution’s validity. About a half of the abstentions came from Africa. The UN also suspended Russia from its Human Rights Commission, another meaningless move, what with committed human rights violators keeping their seats and votes intact.
Biden quite obviously didn’t expect Ramaphosa’s reply: and, pray elucidate, who are you to be telling us what to do and whom to obey?
America has had a record of either ignoring the developments in Africa, or of giving the Africans advice in the form of orders.
In the case of South Africa, her African National Congress (ANC), an organisation as communist as communist can get, had for the longest time a Soviet intelligence (KGB) full colonel as Chairman Nelson Mandela’s principal adviser. Of the ANC income, some came from armed robberies, but most of it came in cash from the Soviet Union.
The Africans don’t forget this.
Another superpower, China, managed to sneak in, as well, and many African politicians are on record as saying that the comrades from Beijing would never tell what they had to do: they would only propose observations and recommendations, and they wouldn’t link Africans’ obedience to sending more assistance.
With South Africa the only African member of the G-20, her voice means something when other African countries receive thinly veiled threats from Washington that demand that they toe America’s line against Russia.
The U.S. Administration has drafted a document named Countering Malign Russian Activities in Africa Act. It would legalise American sanctions against Africans doing business with Russian entities that are under U.S. sanctions.
South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor, undoubtedly with his President’s agreement secured, called the draft “Cold War-esque” and “offensive.”
Ramaphosa told his American interlocutor that “we should not be told by anyone who we can associate with.”
The Americans have sent a number of their politicians to visit Africa (so have the Russians), but it is the Americans who call the most important countries on the continent “sub-Saharan Africa,” a description the Africans detest.
Besides, only a few of today’s African countries are willing to hop in and use the unholy competition between America and Russia for sympathies, votes (and raw materials) for their own purposes. Most of Africa refuse picking a side. They just don’t want to be drawn back into the vicious cycle of being pawns in this superpower game that brings them nothing but a feeling of abused servants.
Laughed out of the room
A typical example: U.S. climate envoy John Kerry arrived at the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment in the capital of Senegal, Dakar, recently.
The result of his lecture was shocking: Africans present called him yet another U.S. official coming to lecture them about being green. The Pan African Climate Justice Alliance went even further: Kerry was performing a “public relations gimmick” that played with “semantics.”
African leaders have figured out that U.S. officials don’t really know it all. They are now allergic to Americans’ attempts to dictate to them. And that’s precisely what South African President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa told his American counterpart. Straight to Joe Biden’s face.
While, at home …
And, meanwhile, Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa is engaged in expropriating land without compensation as (his own words) “one of the measures that we will use to accelerate redistribution of land to black South Africans.”
White farmers are the victims of these expropriations. On top of it, one white farmer in South Africa has been murdered every five days. That’s called ethnic cleansing.
Biden and Kamala Harris, his Vice President, would fit right in with Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa. Ideologically, that is.
Except, they are on the losing side of the battle for world superiority, and they keep doing everything to keep losing. Angering the rest of the world with their ignorant arrogance won’t help them any. But they’re not aware of it.
What does it mean for us, Canadians?
Why not take a correspondence course from the Africans, to re-learn a thing or two about pride and independence?