The Persian Gulf of strategic minerals

In 1997, Ian Douglas Smith – a man who needs no introduction in this part of the world – published his memoirs titled “The Great Betrayal”. Somewhere in those sometimes revealing and often embittered pages, he recollected how in 1967 receiving “an interesting briefing” from Rhodesia’s Security Council, comprising himself as chair; the ministers of defence, and law and order; and the national Joint Operations Command made up of service chiefs and the Central Intelligence Organization. The memoirs say the briefing was on “the communist plan for Africa, as part of their overall scheme for world domination”. The book goes on to talk of how this scheme showed clearly that the “communists had firmly established themselves in a number of countries in North Africa, methodically moving on to new ground once a base had been secured. “The ultimate target was South Africa, which was not only the industrial giant of Africa, but was one of the most richly mineralized parts of our world”. Smith went on: “It was a few years later that I was pleased to receive a report that the United States had been alerted to this development and, as a result, their Congress Committee on Strategic Minerals and Mining had sent a mission to investigate. “After visiting Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo), Zambia, Rhodesia and South Africa, they produced a commendable report and in most expressive language termed the area ‘the Persian Gulf of strategic minerals of our earth’. “Apart from the greatest world deposits of gold, diamonds, platinum and chrome, they itemized a list of other strategic minerals in which many countries, including the USA and Canada, are deficient. “The only other country where one could find a similar conglomerate of these minerals was the USSR if the Soviets could have gained control of this area, therefore, they would have had a virtual world monopoly. “The report warned the American Congress and the nation of this potential danger, and urged them to rouse themselves from their complacency.” A good many decades after this US Congressional briefing and Smith’s own National Security Council meeting, the issues on the table are essentially still the same. Yes, the “threat” of Communism has subsided and the USSR no longer exists. But the rise of China as a force of global economic and political importance has once again roused the West’s urgency to secure for itself Southern Africa’s resources for itself. Our cover story is a report on how the United States and its allies might soon be forced to employ military means to secure the vast resource deposits below our soil. It is not clear if this military action will be against China or Southern Africa itself or if it will include highly nuanced deployment of the West’s diplomatic arsenal that contains such strange constructs as “no-fly zones”. Whatever it is, Africa – more specifically Southern Africa – will be at the centre of the storm and we cannot come out of it any better than we are now. The West’s resource greed has been made apparent by occurrences in Iraq over the past eight or so years, and more recently in Libya. The same motives that drove Africa’s colonization in the 19th century still inform Western foreign policy today. And with the battles of the liberation struggle still so fresh in the collective memory, we surely cannot be complacent about the threat facing us today. This calls for Africa to be on guard and ensure that it secures its resources while making it clear that it will not brook exploitation by the West. That China is just as eager to get its hands on our resources is not the issue: Beijing has always been prepared to negotiate for a share of the cake in mutually-beneficial arrangements that do not include use of “no-fly zones”. But even then Africa must also negotiate with care so that our historically good relations with China are not soured when in hindsight we realize we mortgaged our continent to Beijing. The major worry right now should be the West’s interest in our resources. We have in abundance all the minerals that any country needs to develop and attain economic wellbeing and so we should be concentrating on exploiting these for our own development. The onus is on our leaders to make it clear that the “Persian Gulf of strategic minerals of our Earth” will not be bulldozed by avaricious military powers.

May 2011
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