Norms and Values
The Fight Against Neo-Colonialism in the Political Discourse of South Africa

Neo-colonialism ... meant few African countries could independently embark on any political and economic development route...The Western powers never envisaged independent African countries to decide their own development paths; rather, they sought to create dependent client states which could be manipulated according to the ... requirements of ... Western countries.

Kgalema Motlanthe, former President of South Africa 

Apparently, the first black political leader in South Africa to implicitly identify the post-colonial policies of the former colonial powers as neo-colonialism was the first African Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Albert Luthuli (1898-1966), a descendant of a mixed, Zulu-Matabele marriage, who was elected President of the African National Congress after the introduction of apartheid in South Africa. With a lot of reservations (quite explicable by the then external and internal political situation in South Africa), he defined the support of the apartheid regime by Western countries as a new form of colonialism

For almost a quarter of a century (from 1967 to 1991), Oliver Tambo (1917-1993), who was born on the lands of the Mpondo tribe (now part of the Eastern Cape province of South Africa), led the ANC’s struggle against apartheid. As early as 1980, he quite openly wrote about the establishment of black majority rule in southern Africa. According to him, “the people of … South Africa took up arms to remove both colonialism and neo-colonialism, win total liberation and establish their own political and economic rule.” 

Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), the first black president of the Republic of South Africa, who is regarded as the founding father of modern South Africa, was a descendant of the traditional leaders of the Xhosa people. In one of his speeches, he combined politics and poetry with his characteristic oratory. He began his speech with the following words:

“... this old man ... borrows words from a departed freedom fighter who comes from across the Atlantic...

I refer here to the Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda who, under the title, ‘A Century Dying’, wrote:

The tree of our bitterness

has come full leaf:

and the fall of our century

will carry the foliage away.’

...We want ... to express our conviction that the fall of our century will carry away the foliage of bitterness which has accumulated in our hearts which colonialism (and) neo-colonialism ... gave birth.”

About the end of the bitterness of neo-colonialism being left in the past (as well as about many other things), Nelson Mandela was wrong. Just as mistaken are those who believe that neo-colonialism was just a figure of speech used by South African political leaders. No, neo-colonialism is exactly what they were really fighting against — and continue to fight against. Of course, they bring under this struggle the traditional African “ideological and economic justification”. Thus, Nelson Mandela's successor Thabo Mbeki, as leader of the ANC and President of South Africa (1999-2008) (also belonging to the Xhosa people), put forward the doctrine of “half-a-millennium of an immense and protracted African tragedy, which has included slavery, imperialism, colonialism and neo-colonialism…” 

He sees the means of eliminating its consequences in large-scale programmes of compensatory measures by Western countries that still practice neo-colonialism. Jacob Zuma, the Zulu who replaced Mbeki (Zuma was Mbeki's successor, although formally he was preceded by the first Tswana-speaking head of South Africa, Kgalema Motlanthe, who gave modern South Africa its definition of neo-colonialism, as cited in the epigraph to this article). Zuma led the ruling party of South Africa in 2007-2017, and the state — in 2009-2018. He made the media emphasise the desire to protect “the independence of Africa from neo-colonial influences and interference from outside the continent, particularly by former colonial powers.”

Norms and Values
Neo-Colonialism of the Gilded West
On February 16, the Valdai Club hosted an expert discussion, titled “Russia and the Struggle Against Neo-Colonialism: The End of the Western Dictate?” The discussion’s moderator Oleg Barabanov, Programme Director of the Valdai Club, called the problem of neo-colonialism and the struggle for global equality one of the key issues in modern international relations.
Club events

The current leadership of South Africa, on the contrary, is trying to give the fight against neo-colonialism a slightly different political and economic form. Thus, Cyril Ramaphosa, the current President of South Africa (since 2018) and the leader of the ANC (since 2017), a native of the oldest Venda people in South Africa (dating back to the turn of the 1st—2nd millennium AD), almost immediately after coming to power put forward the doctrine of a win-win process, replacing neo-colonialism (No” to neo-colonialism — “yes” to mutually beneficial cooperation). This was the basis for the development of relations between South Africa and China (and later — with India, the Gulf countries and many other states that have never been colonial powers, including Russia). Gwede Mantashe, National Chairman of the ANC and Minister of Mineral Resources of South Africa, tirelessly calls for a fight against the neo-colonial exploitation (that is, absolutely unequal in terms of profit distribution) of African mineral resources. 

We must keep in mind that at present, unlike during the apartheid period, the key mineral resources of South Africa are mainly not under national, but de jure and de facto Anglo-American-European management and control.

Minister of International Relations Naledi Pandor, joining her colleagues from other states of the African Union in condemning neo-colonialism, also notes that its main manifestation mirrors that of traditional colonialism — i.e. in unequal economic exchange. “We are very rich as a continent… We have many minerals throughout Africa. (But) we don’t do value addition, we just export our materials out of Africa and buy back value added products,” said the former speaker of the country's upper house of parliament

At the same time, in the speeches of politicians from South Africa, one can find condemnation of actions of individual African states that they consider conciliatory in relation to neo-colonialism. According to former South African President Kgalema Motlanthe, one can still find regimes in Africa that are “designed, approved and managed by the erstwhile colonial powers.”

All these speeches show that the modern politicians of South Africa react extremely sharply to any manifestations of neo-colonialism and imperialism in general. For them, this is by no means just words, not a political formula and not a rhetorical phrase. No, it’s still a painful, unhealed wound. That is why the theme of the fight against neo-colonialism for South Africa (as well as for all of Africa as a whole) is still key and politically relevant. It is for this reason that the issues of combating global inequality (and in particular with neo-colonial practices as the most painful manifestations of this inequality) form the basis of the current South African BRICS Chairmanship in 2023. At the same time, it should be noted, that it is this topic that most closely intersects with the relevant initiatives of the largest countries of the non-Western world (China, Russia, India and a number of other states — including countries that most actively express their desire to join the BRICS membership). 

Conflict of Ideas and Identities
Report: Russia’s Return to Africa: Strategy and Prospects
Oleg Barabanov, Vadim Balytnikov, Andrei Yemelyanov, Dmitry Poletaev, Igor Sid, Nathalia Zaiser
The year of 2019 is the Year of Africa in Russia. The first Russia–Africa Summit, held in October 2019, marked a turning point in Russia’s new strategy to return to Africa and promote major initiatives to facilitate development on this continent.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.