By Hadebe Hadebe
Sometimes it is necessary to test how far human imagination can go. Humans don’t always think highly long-term, but when that happens, not everyone is aware of what is going on around them. In a truly audacious fashion, I predict that the time has arrived for the creation of the United States of Southern Africa (USSA), which will stretch from Cape Town to Zambia and may also include Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania.
Nothing is stopping this mega-region state from including Ethiopia, the two Sudans, and Egypt. Ethiopia and Somalia are not Kenya or South Africa in the eyes of Europeans, mainly the English. Arguably, they cannot be included for historical reasons. However, anything is possible since African leaders are highly unpredictable. Who would have thought Mozambique would voluntarily join the British Commonwealth? African leaders do not bother with efforts to rebuild the continent but respond quickly to attend such things as the Europe-Africa Summit.
Early Englishmen such as David Livingston and Cecil John Rhodes could have imagined this entity. Still, it was possibly abandoned due to the complex logistical arrangements and political realities of the time. One drawback was insufficient numbers of Europeans to create a large state akin to the United States of America. But today, this is no longer a requirement since European vassals exist across the African continent and possibly in other parts of the world.
Therefore, there is no need for Europe to send missionaries and the all-conquering forces to annex African tribes. The power of capital drives Africa’s political face more than any other thing on earth. The strength of the British capital is once more playing an active part in reshaping southern Africa. This will not be the first time this is going to happen. In the late 1800s, mining magnate Rhodes used his deep pockets to secure the southernmost African territories. His dream of linking Cape to Cairo by railroad was conceived from this.
The ‘Cape to Cairo’ vision would, among others, unify all British interests between South Africa and Egypt, the two prime and wealthy possessions. The other objectives were to facilitate governance and to enable the British military to move quickly between the hotspots, help settlement and movement of people and goods (trade), etc. Since Rhodes saw himself as an “empire maker”, he probably envisioned a much bigger state on the African continent.
If anyone thinks that this divisive character of Rhodes is about to fall, they must think again. He singlehandedly built the South Africa we know today and lined up British interests in the region to support large white settlements in South Africa and Zimbabwe, as well as played a hand in creating the Anglo-Saxon dominance in the world affairs. His legacy continues to flourish in a racist, polarised world that is only about whiteness and the rest.
¥ Historical perspective of Southern Africa
Early European settlement in southern Africa was characterised by wars and friction between Africans and Europeans and among the European communities, particularly between the English and Boers/ Voortrekkers. Mainly informed by tensions and competition between the large European powers at the time (England, Germany and France), that rivalry played out in southern Africa. Defeated Boers acceded to the British hegemony and agreed to co-govern with the English.
The rise and defeat of Adolf Hitler in Germany nearly scuppered the arrangement between the English and Boers. However, the Boers were allowed to lead the Union of South Africa in 1948 for as long as they did not interfere with the business of large mining companies and other British interests in the colony. This was after Hitler had lost the war and Afrikaner nationalism was in limbo. Formally entrenched later in 1961, the apartheid state was established to protect the global gold standard. There was no way blacks could be entrusted with control of gold resources that propped the world economy.
Apartheid did not last for as long as it did out of its own might, but it existed to serve a single purpose: to keep anyone from disrupting British power in South Africa. The West could not afford to exit Africa and hand it over to another power, say Russia. The current developments concerning Sinophobia merely complete this storyline. Maybe another reason, the Anglo-Saxons wanted sufficient time to move away from the gold standard to the current fiat system. In 1971, Richard Nixon finally ended the US dollar convertibility to gold. Since then, a system of national fiat currencies has been used globally.
For the longest time, everything in Southern Africa evolved around large mining companies such as Anglo-American, Anglovaal, General Mining Corporation, Anglovaal, Rand Mines, Genmin and GoldFields. Coordinated via the Chamber of Mines, these companies produced wealth for the entire industrialised world. Thus, South Africa was not just important for England (its former coloniser) but for most of western Europe and the US, as well as their economic outposts further afield, such as Australia, Japan and South Korea.
It makes sense that these corporations had to be protected until the end. Their evolution in the post- apartheid era to becoming new companies such as Exxaro, African Rainbow Minerals and Seriti Resources points to the political evolution that the region is likely to follow. To understand what is happening to the mining space, Anglo-American remains ‘el jefe’ (the big boss) in South Africa and the region, although the company is now formally British since the early 2000s.
The game plan has not altered a little bit; minerals produced in South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia are mainly for exports, while the local economies cannot move a single inch in terms of going up global production value chains. The so-called black-owned mining companies are mere cogs in a more extensive economic system that seeks to keep Africa dependent and useless in the eyes of the world. They, together with political and economic elites, serve one landlord somewhere across the Mediterranean sea. France, Germany and the UK have no reason to compete with Africa as they did before. The Berlin Conference of 1884-85 has probably been revised and updated several times to reflect cordial relations between these powers.
Therefore, it means that the African continent is likely to have two or three regional states: one under the British and another belonging to the EU; if there is a need, there could be a free space shared by the US and others but excluding the likes of China and Russia. Africa will soon become the new battle space for global control. To secure their interests from the forceful Chinese, Britain, in particular, could consider a new state under its flag where the dragon would not fly. The current geopolitical dynamics involving the West and the Russo-China bloc must be understood in specific contexts.
If anyone doubts this new British state is possible, one has to look no further than Europe, which is now basically a single mega-state that incorporates some former Soviet states in the east. This indicates that multiple economies and currencies (e.g. lira, franc, Deutsche mark, etc.) fall under one central monetary authority in Brussels; the euro is the primary currency. Portrayed as an epitome of globalisation for the benefit of the people, the EU is none other than a grand scam that took away individual identities and sovereignties to create a potentially aggressive single entity. It is an experiment that will be implemented in other parts of the world with some force and aggression in the future.
The EU deliberately mishandled the Greek economic situation and the Brexit because they were seen to undermine the grand project. By the way, Brexit is generally seen as anti-establishment, but it is well under control. British people don’t even know this: they will never regain their freedoms. Then it is not hard to imagine what would happen to the African continent. Britain was freed from onerous obligations imposed by EU treaties to do what it knows best: re-conquer Africa and its natural endowments.
As with the rest of the continent, the southern African region is a collection of very mainly weak countries, which means it is vulnerable and susceptible to external control. Imperialism did not end when many colonies supposedly gained independence from the 1960s but merely changed form. This new perspective, therefore, views the sponsored chaos not only in South Africa but in the region as a whole as a first step to preparing the ground for this new state.
It was mentioned in the preceding article titled ‘The Land Isn’t Ours’ how Britain transformed itself from a colonial power to a potent financial power. It is, therefore, this massive financial muscle that will assist Britain in the creation of the USSA. Almost all the southern African states are heavily indebted – it is unclear how they will break free from the shackles of lenders. The economies are extremely weak, directionless and incapable of providing for their ever-growing populations.
A new form of revived imperialism is keen on diluting the present South African identity to build a transnational identity in preparation for a mega-state in Southern Africa. This will be a largely extractive state similar to what South Africa has been in the past two hundred years. Basically, this will be an economic state run by the BEE-like elite acting in the interest of external forces, with much vigour this time. These would be the alumni of the Rhodes scholarship who “would be bound together by common ideals – Rhodes’s ideals”.
There’s no coincidence that Rhodes helped establish or fund universities such as Fort Hare, Rhodes and UCT, which produced post-colonial leaders. The plan for Africa was hatched many moons ago, and the section below illustrates this vision.
¥ The idea of Southern Africa as a single political entity
About Rhodes’s dream in Africa. His biggest dream was not only to unite the African continent under the Union Jack, but he also hoped that the former English colonies in North America, in what is now the US, would return to the UK. The book ‘The Last Will and Testament of Cecil Rhodes’ (1902) by WT Stead provides Rhodes’s will and political ideas. Besides the Rhodes scholarship, the controversial magnate left behind properties in South Africa and Zimbabwe. Among others, he gave his property in Cape Town (Groote Schuur) as “a residence for the Prime Minister of the [future] Federal Government of the States of South Africa.” The USSA could be the same entity Rhodes envisaged, not the Union of South Africa.
Those executing his will understand what the wealthy Englishman wanted, including his wish to be buried on his personal property in Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). Rhodes’s grave is in Matoppos, south of Bulawayo. In 2015, Robert Mugabe quipped that Zimbabwe had his corpse and South Africa had his statue. He then asked, “So we are looking after the corpse, and you have the statue. I don’t know what you think we should do. Dig him up? Perhaps his spirit might rise again; what shall we do?” The truth is that the spirit of Rhodes never died.
In 2002, Boris Johnson wrote an article titled ‘Africa is a mess, but we can’t blame colonialism’ in The Spectatormagazine, where he said, “The continent may be a blot, but it is not a blot upon our conscience. The problem is not that we were once in charge, but that we are not in charge anymore.” Rhodes’s dream is far from being achieved, but it is also not dead. And the emergence of China as a rising power which stands to threaten British foreign interests across Africa quickens the formation of this mega-state. Now that Britain is a “free” country – Rhodes’s ideas could be realised in earnest.
Historian and University of Idaho’s Richard Spence, who is also the author of the book titled ‘Wall Street and the Russian Revolution: 1905-1925’ (2018), provides a good idea of how capital plays a critical role in effecting political change and also how it shaped the Russian revolution in the early twentieth century, among others. He claims that the British would not have been as successful in Southern Africa without the deep pockets of Rhodes and Lord Milner. Another American historian Carroll Quigley suggests that Rhodes drafted his will where he “left his fortune to form a secret society, which was to devote itself to the preservation and expansion of the British Empire.” Stead’s book mentioned above gives details of the wills.
Quigley adds that on numerous occasions in 1891, the meetings of this secret society (or the Milner Group) were chaired by Rhodes himself, Lord Milner, Lord Selborne, Sir Patrick Duncan, Jan Smuts, Lord Lothian, and Lord Brand. This grouping, he argues, became “one of the most important forces in the formulation and execution of British imperial and foreign policy.” Some of its achievements include the Boer War of 1899-1902, the Rhodes scholarship, and the Union of South Africa in 1906-1910. It publicised the idea of the name ‘British Commonwealth of Nations’, which had something to do with the creation of the League of Nations in 1918. Therefore, Smuts’ participation in the formation of the world body should be understood in this context. As such, the idea of the USSA is not far-fetched after all.
Even more impressive for the British Empire is that the Anglo-Portuguese Convention of 1891 is now dead under the water, and Lusophone possessions are attracted to the UK. Mozambique has been a member of the Commonwealth since 1995, and Angola is in line to join after former UK prime minister Tony Blair spent months in Luanda helping the government with “reforms.” While still British foreign secretary, Johnson commented in 2018: “Splendid that Angola wants to join the Commonwealth family.” And former Belgian colony Rwanda joined the Commonwealth in 2009.
Now, it means Rhodes’ project of bringing entire Southern Africa under British control is now almost complete. Today Rwanda is like a ‘tax heaven’ for minerals, an exit point for Congolese minerals to Europe. The tiny state is in line to become one of the key centres in the imagined USSA. The USSA will send a large contingent of athletes drawn from its constituent republics to the future Commonwealth Games.
¥ Southern African bloc
Previous attempts to build a unified, single state in southern Africa
In the early 1900s, many of the territories surrounding South Africa were faced with the decision to join the Union of South Africa as provinces or accept nearly full internal autonomy, but they opposed integration into South Africa. These territories included Basutoland (Lesotho), Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe); Swaziland (eSwatini); Bechuanaland (Botswana). And, possibly Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) and Nyasaland (Malawi) were also considered for integration into the Union of South Africa. The decision against integration into South Africa was made by settler communities rather than the Africans themselves. This meant that Southern Africa became many states instead of one mega-state, and probably Rhodes would not have been pleased.
At times one wonders what a massive territory stretching from, say, Mpulungu in northern Zambia to Cape Town would have been like. But the empire builders intended to create a large country like the United States in Africa. Despite the failure to physically link the colonial territories, the founders of the modern South African state saw it as an economic centre for the whole region. For example, Zimbabwe and South Africa, among others, have always shared similar destinies by default. When Zimbabwe’s economic fortunes declined, its citizens moved southwards is perfectly understandable. University of Pretoria’s Professor Alois S. Mlambo argues: “South Africa and its northern neighbour have had a long historical relationship, dating from the founding of Rhodesia as a British colony in 1890.”
It was Cecil John Rhodes who went over the Limpopo River to establish the colony of Rhodesia. As a result, there was always an “expectation that Southern Rhodesia would eventually become incorporated into South Africa.” Most notably, Southern Rhodesia already had a lot of Europeans who had settled there by 1920. An opportunity arose for it to become another province of South Africa. But in 1923, the settlers rejected integration into South Africa through a referendum.
Following this, the United Kingdom heightened its control over the territory as its colony. Although the colony had experienced exponential economic growth and industrialisation, Southern Rhodesia understood its limitations. As a response, in 1953, it entered into a loose arrangement that brought South and North Rhodesia plus Nyasaland together under one umbrella of the Central African Federation. But the truth is that Rhodesia was always economically dependent on South Africa in every respect. The Central African Federation did not see the light of day and collapsed.
South Africa was always a major source of capital investment for Rhodesia’s mining and manufacturing industries. Nonetheless, the economy was also small and required its southern neighbour’s presence, as we still witness today. South African capital plays a huge part in the Zimbabwean economy and the economies of other countries in the region. Besides the retail stores, South African-linked capital strategic investments continue to trickle in. For example, in 2019, Anglo American Platinum opened its USD62 million smelter plant at the Unki mine in Shurugwi.
The economies of eSwatini, Botswana, Namibia and Lesotho are closely tied to the South African economy. However, the influence of the South African capital goes further than its immediate neighbours. Zambia is a prime example of how the British and South African capital has always acted together to exploit the Copperbelt. Even in the neighbouring DRC, Glencore calls the shots and mines some of the essential commodities for the world economy, such as cobalt, coltan and copper. All the countries exist under the heavy hand of corporations whose headquarters are located in South Africa.
Nonetheless, Rhodesia was among the important places for cheap labour required in the gold and diamond mines, see Witwatersrand Native Labour Association (WNLA). The mining sector in South Africa still uses the colonial bilateral agreements to source workers from Lesotho, Mozambique, etc. The closeness between the two territories reached its pick in the 1960s when Rhodesia declared its much-contested independence from Britain. That was just a few years after apartheid. South Africa had also walked out on Britain to declare itself a republic. Both South Africa and Rhodesia were pariah-like states until 1980 (when a black government took over in a new state called Zimbabwe), or 1994 in the case of South Africa.
It is worth noting that the closeness between the two states continued even after independence despite differences regarding apartheid policies. Mlambo maintains, “South Africa remained Zimbabwe’s major trading partner and South African capital still dominated Zimbabwe’s economy as in the past, the hegemonic power that it had enjoyed in the past no longer existed, especially since the removal of international sanctions opened up opportunities for global trade and investment inflows into the country, and the country was no longer heavily dependent on South Africa alone.”
This dependence has again increased with the collapse of the Zimbabwean economy starting in the early 2000s. At least five million Zimbabweans reportedly reside in South Africa, adding to the present socio-economic difficulties confronting the post-apartheid state. The presence of Zimbabwean citizens in South Africa could be interpreted as an essential launchpad for creating a future state whose form or shape is not yet known. Nationals of other states are also in South Africa in huge numbers. Unlike in the past, South Africa appears to have given up on closing borders as throngs of people come in. The USSA, therefore, seems logical.
¥ Conditions are ripe for Rhodes’s federal state in southern Africa
From day one, the newly independent African state was perhaps designed to be one of the weakest entities in the world: its political, social and economic systems are tamed and depend on external intervention. That is why anyone from China and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to Monsanto and the US Africa Command (Africom) can run helter-skelter from the Kgalagadi Desert in Botswana to Djibouti. But the least understood phenomenon and its influence on Africa is British and European capital, which is held in assets such as land, economy, portfolio investments and other installations.
European powers, particularly Britain and France, never left Africa but continue to rule it to this day. Their influence is not about to wane at any point soon. Sometimes called capitalism, European money and treachery have ensured that countries are forever dependent on Paris, Berlin, and London.
Europeans divided the African territory into two categories. The first group consists of settler colonies such as South Africa, Kenya, Mozambique, Algeria, Namibia etc. This is where significant scores of European communities settled and built infrastructure and economies. Perhaps the most developed of these is South Africa. The second group comprises extractive colonies, which goes for many territories that are only good for their natural resources, and Europeans were not interested in inhabiting them. When colonialism supposedly ended in the 1960s, there was a plan to eternally keep these places, irrespective of category, under European control. The new states were wrecked from within through economics.
The economic dimension made sure that Europe maintained a more substantial presence. The former colonisers determine political and economic directions for these countries. The sovereignty that is boldly stated in the 1963 Charter of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) is nothing but tokenism. This means that the African Union (AU), which succeeded the OAU in 2002, is a collection of foreign-owned territories. Not even Ethiopia is free after resisting the first round of colonisation.
British economist John Christensen raises a crucial point that today Africa is widely regarded as a net debtor in the world. The combined external debts of African countries were USD177 billion at the end of 2008. As a result, African states are forced to borrow from international finance institutions and are generally considered very poor (or heavily indebted poor countries, HIPC). Christensen argues that this should not be the case, but stolen African wealth stored abroad is around USD944 billion. One wonders what exactly the AU and Thabo Mbeki have been going on about in their project of illicit financial flows.
This stolen African fortune is kept in Britain and its network of tax heavens worldwide. This money is now a potent weapon for the second round of colonisation. After over fifty years since Britain purportedly gave up its territories, it is once more keen to re-invade the continent. This ‘invasion’ at a superficial level appears to be a strategy to keep out China or Russia. However, the truth is that this was conceptualised many decades ago, as already explained above. The new ‘colonialism’ format entails changing the political makeup of southern Africa as a start.
The single federal USSA will be modelled on the United States of America or the EU under the pretext of regional economic integration that will be much stronger than the present-day Southern African Development Community (SADC). The nerve centre for this state is none other than South Africa further south. South Africa has always been the heartbeat of European settlement and development in the region and maybe in the continent. A new identity of people will be given to residents of this vast state. In any way, Britain did well in the 1800s to impose mega tribe identities like Shona, Zulu, Tswana and Bemba. A new identity under the British flag is currently in the making.
Alongside Canada and the US, South Africa and Australia are generally considered ‘Europe-Abroad’ and fall under the direct sphere of Western political influence, by force or crook. Therefore, it will not come as a surprise to see South Africa becoming the nucleus of this state. While black South Africans complain about an influx of foreigners from the neighbouring states, they are little aware that a new mega-state with a new identity is in the making under their watch.
The changes in politics and economics of the region signal that South Africa is once again becoming a pivot for this new state that was envisaged over a hundred years ago. This vision did not materialise in the interim period. Europeans have always experimented with making South Africa a political centre, economic hub, and social engineering lab. But South Africa, like other states in the region, will cease to exist as an independent territory in the present format. The USSA is the new political entity that will combine the European interests, and Britain is the project leader and foreman.
Capital will dominate the new state as it does in South Africa presently. In this regard, it is essential to highlight that the financial markets are five times the size of the real economy in South Africa. Corporate dynast Harry Frederick Oppenheimer is quoted to have once referred to South Africa as ”the Saudi Arabia of minerals”. South Africa is now readied to shape the character of a new political entity that will resemble what Australia, Canada and New Zealand are to the UK. Most of the prized minerals are buried in Africa, and the continent has most arable land than the entire world.
After the Brexit deal, Johnson once commented that Britain was looking at working with former colonies or the Commonwealth. Interestingly, many of the British colonies are in Southern Africa. It seems like something big is brewing on the horizon. Britain would be interested in realising the vision of Rhodes.
Rhodes isn’t about to fall anytime soon!