The current state of global and local affairs poses significant challenges and opportunities to SA its impact on the world at large, writes Kuseni Dlamini.
The current state of global and local affairs poses significant challenges and opportunities to South Africa and its role and impact on the world at large. This is an epoch that requires impeccable statesmanship at all levels of the local and global economy and society.
From the protracted Amcu-led nine-week strike in the platinum belt and service delivery protests to the protracted and deadly crisis in the Great Lakes region (which the world is ignoring as usual when African lives are concerned) to the Ukrainian crisis (which the world is excited about as usual when Europeans are at each other’s throats) that threatens a resurrection of Cold War tensions, South Africa’s leadership and diplomatic capital is being stretched and challenged in ways that are not insignificant.
At a domestic level, South Africa faces its most fiercely contested and competitive election ever since the dawn of democracy.
This will test the ability of the ANC to face up to new challenges to its 20-year hegemony over local political and social affairs.
The ANC can surprise on the upside when under siege and facing relentless attack, which it often turns around as an opportunity to galvanise its party faithful and reach out to a broader coalition of grassroots supporters. This requires creative and smart electioneering strategies and tactics to be deployed.
The DA has been working hard as the opposition over the past five to 10 years to make inroads into the traditional ANC electoral base by targeting the born frees, using social media and talking up its governance record in the Western Cape.
It needs to project a compelling and clear vision of the future that goes beyond it’s obsession with Nkandla and discrediting President Jacob Zuma, if it is to transcend single-issue politics usually linked to NGOs.
The DA has now been joined by new political entrepreneurs such as the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), AgangSA and other left-wing political parties formed in the aftermath of the Marikana tragedy of August 2012.
This year’s elections will also test the existing and emerging opposition parties’ ability and maturity to play a role in the mainstream politics of Africa’s leading constitutional democracy.
The key is to have a fiercely contested election that ultimately also turns out to be free and fair.
The unprecedented level of intra-party and inter-party political rivalry should be used as an opportunity to consolidate and deepen a pervasive culture of democracy and political tolerance, which should indicate to the world that our democracy is maturing and advancing, rather than being undermined or threatened.
This can and must be done. It requires the political will and commitment of all political party leaders and activists to make it happen.
The second area of massive challenge for South Africa and, dare I say, the world at large, is peace and stability in the Great Lakes region.
The barbaric and inhuman slaughtering of people in the Central African Republic (CAR) combined with the unending crisis in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and South Sudan is great cause for concern.
It is sad that the world’s media and diplomatic attention is now disproportionately devoted to the escalation of tensions between Moscow, on the one hand, and Brussels and Washington DC, on the other.
Africa matters. The lives being lost and disrupted in the Great Lakes are numerically more than the lives that have been lost and disrupted in Ukraine.
It is a moral indictment that there is no sense of global outrage and mobilisation against the barbaric killings in the CAR and the ongoing conflicts in the DRC and South Sudan.
The crisis in Ukraine also poses serious challenges to the post-Cold War new world order of a unipolar world united by its commitment to noble global norms and values. Russia is increasingly asserting itself as a major power and force in global affairs but doing so in ways that seem to rekindle the tensions that divided the world between East and West for decades, with disastrous consequences.
Russia is likely to be kicked out of the G8 group of Western-dominated powers which was expanded to be the G8 as a gesture of appreciation when Russia abandoned communism during then Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev’s era of perestroika and glasnost.
The Western powers are upset with Russia’s readmission, or annexation as some call it, of Crimea following a hastily convened referendum in which 97 percent of Crimeans voted to secede from Ukraine and rejoin Russia, from which they were separated in 1954 when then Russian president Nikita Khrushchev handed it over to the then Soviet Republic of Ukraine.
Once kicked out of the G8, Russia will be left with the Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) as one of its key global power platforms to leverage and maximise its influence in global affairs.
South Africa, India and Brazil have generally tended to have very good relations with the Western powers and, unlike Russia and China (in the Brics), they have tended to avoid direct and unhelpful confrontation with the West which may undermine their national economic interests.
The brinkmanship between Moscow and the West is not helpful to global peace and stability, although it is very unlikely to take a military form as the world cannot afford that. Global peace among all nations is key to global prosperity for all nations and bold and visionary leadership is required to ensure exactly that at local, regional and global levels.
* Dlamini is a member of the national council of the SA Institute of International Affairs and is currently in Washington DC.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.