DURBAN 25-03-2013 Speaking at Daikonia on BRICS under meeting. From left Wahu Kaara (Kenya), Tristen Taylor (SA), Lucia Ortiz (Brazil) and Au Loong Yu (China). Picture: S'bonelo Ngcobo

The first Brics-from-below civil society summit takes place parallel to the fifth Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) summit that begins ton Tuesday.

Hosted by environmental group groundWork, the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance and the UKZN Centre for Civil Society, the parallel summit aims to monitor and challenge the process and outcomes decided on by the government and big business.

The civil society summit believes South Africa has been labelled the “gateway for investment on the continent”, in what is set to be the 21st century scramble for Africa.

Delegates fear Africa would be left overwhelmed by Brics corporations that would use its resources to attract billions of dollars worth of Brics infrastructure developments.

“State repression and violence, inadequate service delivery and ecological destruction and climate change, are all symptoms of the domestic and international development model in Brics countries and in those countries in which they invest,” said Bobby Peek, director of groundWork.

At a press conference on Monday night, civil society NGOs referred to the carving up of Mozambique. In his paper entitled Brics lessons from Mozambique, Peek said this was an example of colonial exploitation by Brics countries.

He referred to South Africa extracting 415 mega watts of electricity from Mozambique through the Cahora Bassa Dam, which has permanently altered the flow of the Zambezi River, resulting in severe flooding on a more frequent basis.

Peek said it was projected that by 2050, Brics countries would all be in the top 10 economies of the world, except for South Africa. He asked the question: “Why is South Africa in Brics” and replied that South Africa was seen as a gateway for corporations into Africa.

“This is because of SA’s vast footprint on the continent,” he said.

Wahu Kaara, co-ordinator of the Kenya Debt Relief Network, shared the sentiment that Africa was being “neo-colonised” and felt the “it’s for profit” mindset needed to be unblocked. The NGOs believe Brics was undemocratic and did not involve the people of the country. “South Africa doesn’t know what’s going on in its own back yard,” said Kaara.

Tristen Taylor, project co-ordinator of Earthlife Africa Johannesburg, said they were concerned about the lack of access ordinary people had to the Brics summit and that the government had forgotten all about inclusive government “when Brics rolled in.”

Brics-from-below continues on Tuesday and Wednesday. Civil society NGOs from Brics countries plan to picket outside the International Convention Centre where the summit is being held.

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