Exporting Apartheid to Sub-Saharan Africa. The Legacy of Nelson Mandela

by Prof Michel Chossudovsky
Global Research
Dec 13, 2013

This article was first published in French in the Monde diplomatique in April 1997.  It was subsequently published in the African Journal of Political Economy and in the author’s book: The Globalization of Poverty and the New World Order. 

The policy of land expropriation in Mozambique leading to the establishment of White Afrikaner farms using indentured Mozambican farm workers had the support of the ANC government. It also had the the personal blessing of President Nelson Mandela “who had delegated Mpumalanga Premier Matthews Phosa to the SACADA Board of Governors.

Premier Phosa, a distinguished ANC politician and among the most prosperous black businessmen in Mpumalanga province (East Transvaal), contributed to laying the political ground work for the expansion of White Afrikaner business interests into neighbouring countries.  

The SACADA project was coordinated by the leader of the right wing Freedom Front and former South African Defense Force Chief General Constand Viljoen

Viljoen developed a close personal relationship with Nelson Mandela. He had convinced Mandela that  promoting White Afrikaner  farms in neighbouring countries “would provide food and employment for locals”.  What was not discussed was that this ANC government policy implied a de facto process of land expropriation which went against the basic tenets of the ANC’s struggle for land rights for African peasants.

From the outset, international corporate agribusiness and the World Bank  were involved in this project. It is worth noting that during the period of “Transition” preceding the 1994 presidential elections, General Constand Viljoen had been “plotting an Afrikaner guerrilla war against multiracial rule”. (Financial Times, December 5, 2013)

While Mandela “believed in action” … at the core of [his] militancy was always a desire to get the white colonial regime to come to the table and talk.” (Mail and Guardian, December 12, 2013). This stance largely characterized his relationship  with General Viljoen.

It is worth noting that in the 1980s General Viljoen as Chief of the South African Defence Force led South African troops into Angola. In 1993, he participated in the establishment of the Right wing racist Afrikaner Volksfront (AVF).  He later formed the Freedom Front Party which presented candidates to the April 1994 elections.

The article on Exporting apartheid was the object of controversy.

Its publication in Le Monde diplomatique in April 1997 coincided with the hearings of the South Africa Truth Commission led by Rev Desmond Tutu, which focused on the role of General Constand Viljoen as South African Defense Force Chief during the Apartheid period. (General Viljoen testified in May 1997 before the Truth Commission

The article was the object of a June 1997 law suit claiming defamation directed against the author and Le Monde diplomatique by the South African Chamber for Agricultural Development (SACADA)  and the leader of the Freedom Front and former SADF Chief General Constand Viljoen. 

The law suit launched in Paris was subsequently thrown out by the Paris Court of Justice.

Michel Chossudovsky, December 12, 2013

Exporting Apartheid to Sub-Saharan Africa

by Michel Chossudovsky

The right wing Afrikaner Freedom Front (FF) headed by General Constand Viljoen plans to develop a “Food Corridor” extending across the Southern part of the continent from Angola to Mozambique. Afrikaner agri-business is to extend its grip into neighbouring countries with large scale investments in commercial farming, food processing and eco-tourism. The agricultural unions of the Orange Free State and Eastern Transvaal are partners; the objective is to set up White-owned farms beyond South Africa’s borders.

The “Food Corridor,” however, does not mean “food for the local people.” On the contrary, under the scheme the peasants will lose their land, with small-holders becoming farm labourers or tenants on large scale plantations owned by the Boers. Moreover, the South African Chamber for Agricultural Development (SACADA) which acts as an umbrella organization also includes, centrally, several right wing organizations including the Freedom Front (FF) led by Viljoen, whose grim record as South African Defence Force (SADF) Commander in Chief during the Apartheid regime is well known.

The Freedom Front, although “moderate” in comparison to Eugene Terre’Blanche’s far-right Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB), is a racist political movement committed to the Afrikaner Volksstaat. The SACADA-Freedom Front initiative has nonetheless the political backing of the African National Congress as well as the personal blessing of President Nelson Mandela who has delegated Mpumalanga Premier Matthews Phosa to the SACADA Board of Governors. All the other governors are members of the Freedom Front. Premier Phosa, a distinguished ANC politician and among the most prosperous black businessmen in Mpumalanga province (East Transvaal), has also contributed to laying the political ground work for the expansion of White Afrikaner business interests into neighbouring countries.

In discussions with President Mandela, General Viljoen had argued that “settling Afrikaner farmers would stimulate the economies of neighbouring states, would provide food and employment for locals, and that this would stem the flow of illegal immigrants into South Africa.” Viljoen has also held high level meetings on Afrikaner agricultural investments with representatives of the European Union, the United Nations and other donor agencies.

In turn, Pretoria is negotiating with several African governments on behalf of SACADA and the Freedom Front. The ANC government is anxious to facilitate the expansion of corporate agri-business into neighbouring countries. As one newspaper account affirms, “Mandela has asked the Tanzanian government to accept Afrikaner farmers to help develop the agricultural sector” while SACADA itself has approached some 12 African countries “interested in White South African farmers.” In a venture set up in 1994 under the South African Development Corporation (SADEVCO), the government of the Congo had granted to the Boers 99 year leases on agricultural land; President Mandela endorsed the scheme calling on African nations “to accept the migrants as a kind of foreign aid.”

The African host countries have on the whole welcomed the inflow of Afrikaner investments. With regard to regulatory policies, however, the Bretton Woods institutions and the World Trade Organization (WTO) (rather than national governments) call the shots, invariably requiring (indebted) countries to accept “a wide open door to foreign capital.” In this context, the liberalization of trade and investment under donor supervision, tends to support the extension of Afrikaner business interests throughout the region. Moreover, in the sleazy environment shaped by transnational corporations and international creditors, corrupt politicians and senior bureaucrats are often co-opted or invited to become the “business partners” of South African and other foreign investors.

The expropriation of peasant lands

The “Food Corridor” initiative will displace a pre-existing agricultural system: it not only appropriates the land, it takes over the host country’s economic and social infrastructure and, almost inevitably, spells increased levels of poverty in the countryside. It will most likely provide a fatal blow to subsistence agriculture as well as to the peasant cash crop economy, displacing local level agricultural markets and aggravating the conditions of endemic famine prevailing in the region. As if this were not enough, Jen Kelenga, a spokesperson for a pro-democracy group in Zaire, also sees, at the heart of the initiative, the Boers “in search of new territories to apply their racist way of living.”

The “Food Corridor” if carried through, could potentially alter the rural landscape of the Southern African region, requiring the uprooting and displacement of small farmers over an extensive territory. Under the proposed scheme, millions of hectares of the best farmland would be handed over to South African agri-business. The Boers are to manage large scale commercial farms using the rural people both as “labour tenants” as well as seasonal agricultural workers.

Such initiatives also dovetail with World Bank directives regarding land-use in the region. Indeed, the Bank has pressed for land legislation throughout Sub-Saharan Africa that would abrogate the right to land of millions of small-holders, with identical land legislation now being enforced throughout the region. The national level land laws (drafted under technical advice from World Bank Legal Department) are with some variations “exact carbon copies of each other”:

“The constitution [in Mozambique] says that the land is the property of the State and cannot be sold or mortgaged. There has been strong pressure particularly from the United States and the World Bank for land to be privatized and to allow mortgages …”

Under the proposed land legislation, both SACADA and the World Bank nonetheless tout the protection of traditional land rights. The small peasantry is to be “protected” through the establishment of “customary land reserves” established in the immediate vicinity of the White commercial farms. In practice, under the new land legislation, the majority of the rural people will be caged into small territorial enclaves (“communal lands”) while the bulk of the best agricultural land will be sold or leased to private investors.

This also means that peasant communities which practice shifting cultivation over a large land area, as well as pastoralists, will henceforth be prosecuted for encroaching on lands earmarked for commercial farming, often without their prior knowledge. Impoverished by the macro-economic reforms, with no access to credit and modern farm inputs, these customary enclaves will, as noted, constitute “labour reserves” for large scale agri-business.

Afrikaner farms in Mozambique

SACADA has plans to invest in Mozambique, Zaire, Zambia and Angola, “with Mozambique being the test case.” President Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique and President Nelson Mandela (1994 picture right) signed an intergovernmental agreement in May 1996 which grants rights to Afrikaner agri-business to develop investments in at least six provinces encompassing territorial concessions of some eight million hectares. According to one South African official:

“Mozambique needs the technical expertise and the money, and we have the people … We favour an area which is not heavily populated because it is an Achilles heel if there are too many people on the land … For the Boers, Land is next to God and the Bible.”

In SACADA’s concessionary areas in Mozambique, the Frelimo government will ensure that there is no encroachment; rural small-holders and subsistence farmers (who invariably do not possess legal land titles) will either be expelled or transferred into marginal lands.

In Mozambique’s Nissan province, the best agricultural land is to be leased in concession to the Afrikaners for fifty years. At the token price of some $0.15 per hectare per annum, the land lease is a give-away. Through the establishment of Mosagrius (a joint venture company), SACADA is now firmly established in the fertile valley of the Lugenda river. But the Boers also have their eyes on agricultural areas along the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers as well as on the road and railway facilities linking Lichinga, Niassa’s capital to the deep seaport of Nagala. The railway line is being rehabilitated and modernized (by a French contractor) with development aid provided by France.

In the initial stage of the agreement, concessionary areas in Niassa province were handed over to SACADA in 1996 to be settled by some 500 White Afrikaner farmers. These lands are earmarked for commercial farming in both temperate highveld and sub-tropical lowveld. The available infrastructure including several state buildings and enterprises will also be handed over to the Boers.

The Boers will operate their new farms as part of their business undertakings in South Africa, dispatching White Afrikaner managers and supervisors to Mozambique. The Boers will bring from South Africa their Black right-hand men, their tractor operators, their technicians. In the words of the project liaison officer at the South African High Commission in Maputo: “Each and every Afrikaner farmer will bring his tame Kaffirs” who will be used to supervise the local workers. The number of White settlers in the concessionary areas in Niassa is likely to be small.

SACADA has carefully mapped out the designated areas by helicopter, South Africa’s agricultural research institutes have surveyed the area, providing an assessment of environmental as well as social and demographic conditions.


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