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Following comments about Botswana being a puppet of US imperialism, ANC Youth League President Julius Malema is appearing before the party’s disciplinary committee, writes Ronald Wesso.

South Africa enters an interesting week. Today (Tuesday 30 August 2011) Julius Malema appears before the disciplinary committee of the ANC (African National Congress) on charges explained by its chairperson Derek Hanekom as follows: ‘Comrade Julius Malema has been charged with various violations of the ANC constitution, including bringing the ANC into disrepute through his utterances and statements on Botswana and sowing divisions in the ranks of the African National Congress.’ From Wednesday on the other top officials of the ANC Youth League appear on the same charges. Apparently this is all about the intra-ANC struggle in the lead up to its elective conference next year. In other words, by extension the issue at stake is nothing less than who would be the president of South Africa after the next elections.

Of course this means lots of noise, bluster and counter noise and bluster, in the same style as we have seen in the run up to the last ANC elective conference in 2007 in Polokwane. The danger is that the substantive questions get lost. In this case it already has to some extent. This is the statement Malema and his colleagues are being disciplined for (and that they have retracted): ‘The ANC Youth League will also establish a Botswana Command Team which will work towards uniting all oppositional forces in Botswana to oppose the puppet regime of Botswana led by the Botswana Democratic Party. The BDP led Botswana is a foot stool of imperialism, a security threat to Africa and always under constant puppetry of the United States.’ What exactly is wrong with this?

Maybe it is against ANC policy to attempt to unite and support opposition to the governments of other countries. But such a position is morally and politically unjustifiable because firstly it would require a certain indifference to how foreign governments treat the people they govern, and secondly it would contradict the ANC’s history of relying on just such help from foreign governments in its struggle to unseat the apartheid government. The ANC cannot claim a principled commitment to non-interference, not after invading Lesotho to restore the government of their choice. In fact, the ANC has received millions upon millions of rands in election donations from foreign governments, which helped them getting elected; how is this not interference?

The bigger substantive issue is the nature of the Botswana government and its relation to the USA and Africa. The Youth League leaders do not specify why they see the government of Ian Khama as a ‘foot stool of imperialism’ or what exactly the security threat is that this government poses to Africa, but the truth is that they could have picked from any number of reasons. In the more than 40 years the Khamas and the BDP has been in power in Botswana, the US has replaced the UK as the leading perpetrator of imperialist aggression on the African continent. The death of Congolese president Patrice Lumumba is but one of many thousands of African deaths that can be directly ascribed to the ambition of the US to dominate Africa politically, economically, culturally and militarily. During this tumultuous time, when millions of Africans arose at great personal cost against US imperialism, where did the BDP government of Botswana stand? They were and are a loyal ally, or rather junior partner. Certainly African governments are aware of this. Why else in the last 15 years did Botswana have to struggle so hard to convince its neighbours that it was not hosting a secret US military base? The CIA, always sensitive to US interests, praises Botswana thus, ‘Through fiscal discipline and sound management, Botswana transformed itself from one of the poorest countries in the world to a middle-income country with a per capita GDP of $13,100 in 2010.’ ‘Fiscal discipline and sound management’ in the view of the CIA consist of policies that support the ambitions of the US government and its business corporations. Whatever we think of Malema, we must admit that the Botswana government under the Khamas and their BDP has always followed such policies.


* Ronald Wesso works for the Surplus People Project, an NGO supporting community struggles for agrarian reform and food sovereignty. This article first appeared on
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