Opinion: The Ruling Class And Role Of South African Business In DRC

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Written by Staff

From Libcom. Opinion piece by Malatesta Black.

While Cecil John Rhodes’s likeness was falling from its perch at the University of Cape Town, and immigrants from other parts of Africa and Asia were being attacked because of sentiments stoked up by a rehabilitated relic of apartheid (the Zulu king, Zwelithini), the South African ruling class felt brash enough to say they will be continuing their own imperialist war in the DRC.

President Jacob Zuma made this announcement on behalf the South African ruling class – comprised today of white capitalists, a black elite mainly centered around the state, Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) and “traditional” royal families.

…It is not the ruling class that are actually doing the fighting in the DRC, but the sons and daughters of the working class. Reflecting on the World War I, Alexander Berkman noted that the working class are not really sent to war to save the poor or workers, but to protect and further the interests of the rulers, governors and capitalists of their countries. (Berkman was a Russian anarchist known for his political activism and writing who moved to the U.S. in 1888.)

…South African troops have been stationed, in one capacity or another, for more than a decade in the DRC. They have stood guard over elections, they have been involved in “peacekeeping,” and at times they have also been involved in directly protecting the interests of the South African state’s ally, Joseph Kabila.

In 2013, the role of South African troops in the DRC, however, officially escalated. Almost 1400 new troops joined the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB). South African troops in fact make up the bulk of the FIB, with support from Malawi and Tanzania. The FIB’s task, including the South African troops that make up its rump, is to hunt down and kill members of guerrilla organisations in the Kivu region. To do so they have been launching operations with the DRC military against such groups.

At times the combat in this war has been fierce. In one day alone during the Battle of Kibati, in August 2013, South African troops – along with South African Air Force Rooivalk attack helicopters – killed over 500 members of the M23 rebel group. Such actions have seen the M23 effectively destroyed as a force. South African troops, along with their allies in the form of Tanzanian and DRC troops, are now beginning to make plans to strike at other rebel groups in the area.

The deployment of South African troops has not come cheap. Hundreds of millions of rand have been spent on this by the South African state.

…War is a messy business and it almost never based on humanitarian ideals or on ethical considerations: there are usually more unsavory reasons behind wars mainly centered around the political and economic interests of ruling classes.

…There are many South African-linked companies that have interests in or have invested in the DRC, including MTN, Barloworld, Nandos, Shoprite, AECI, African Rainbow Minerals, Famous Brands, Aveng, Standard Bank, Group Five, Metorex, PPC Cement, Raubex, Grindrod, and Super Group.

The state-owned oil and gas company, PetroSA, has operations in the DRC. The South African state too views the Congo River as a potential source of electricity that could at one stroke deal with the shortfall of electricity that South Africa is facing. Eskom has been negotiating with the DRC to build a series of hydro-electric dams on the Congo River that would supply South African industry with up to 40,000 megawatts of electricity a day.

Read more at Libcom.