The heads of state from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa recently met at Sandton, the Johannesburg’s corruption-ridden financial district, for a two-day annual summit. Pretending to challenge Western imperial hegemony over poor nations of the South, this bloc has itself proved to be no different.
The BRICS group is a self centred club of capitalists whose motive is profits through resource plunder in Africa characterised by massive pollution despite their fake anti-imperialist tune they sing every time they come together to strategise on elite profit making schemes.
If anything, two of the BRICS powers, China and India, are investing billions of dollars in coal-fired thermal-power generation in Africa while winning global applause for increasing their solar and wind power at home.
This contradiction and policy inconsistency is one of the many that make BRICS a farce. According to Farai Maguwu, an environmentalist and defender of human rights, China is funding coal projects in Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, yet it is a global powerhouse in renewable energy. It put on hold more than 100 coal plants in 2017 with a combined installed capacity of 100 gigawatts. In 2016 China’s energy regulator also halted coal-fired projects amounting to over 300 gigawatts, mainly due to overcapacity but also health and local pollution concerns. Yet recently, Zimbabwe concluded a $1.4 billion agreement with the Export-Import Bank of China for the construction of a 600-megawatt coal-fired power plant. Now here is the problem that I want to highlight. Several Chinese state energy companies are losing business due to government’s slowing of carbon emissions and China is turning them to Africa. Due to its unrivalled current level of pollution, China has first-hand knowledge on the effects of coal on the environment and human health.
Researchers on climate change calculated that about 1.6 million people in China die every year from health issues caused by the country’s notoriously polluted air. So why is China financing an industry that causes death and destruction when clean energy technology is rising fast in China itself? Dumping old technology makes business sense to China, just as it always did to the West.
Refusing to be outdone, the Indian government is being praised globally for taking steps to halt carbon emissions, but it too as Maguwu asserts, extended a $310 million loan to Zimbabwe to finance a rehabilitation programme for Hwange Thermal Power station that would entail upgrading the plant and extending its lifespan by a further 15-20 years.
According to Indian ambassador to Harare, Rungsung Masakui, “The Indian government is keen to assist and cooperate with the people of Zimbabwe in projects that uplift your people.”
This is quite a shocking statement because coal is killing people in India, yet will uplift Zimbabweans! Shocking. Apart from investing in dirty fossil energy projects, BRICS nations are also united in looting Africa’s resources via dodgy relations with corrupt African regimes. In neighbouring Mozambique, the Brazilian company Vale has been displacing hundreds of farmer-pastoralist villagers from ancestral homes to pave way for coal mining. Although villagers are unanimous in condemning this modern-day colonialism, their protests have been met with fire and fury by the Brazilian firm that apparently has corporate impunity. The Mozambican government seems powerless to restrain this rogue capitalist entity. In Zimbabwe, Russia has muscled its way into the lucrative platinum and diamond sectors. After the military coup in November, Putin sent his powerful Foreign Minister Lavrov to meet Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa where they agreed to move ahead with a dodgy $3 billion platinum project.
Lavrov later revealed to the media that Russia was also interested in Zimbabwe’s diamond sector, adding the two countries will increase military cooperation. My unapologetic view is that in Zimbabwe strong health, access to clean water, food security, jobs and infrastructure development are the main priorities of the Zimbabwean people, not more power to the country’s de facto junta.
As the BRICS leaders arrived in Johannesburg weeks back, anti-capitalist protestors moved in to throw proverbial bricks at the conference of polluters and looters. Activists held both a picket against the BRICS New Development Bank and a ‘Break the BRICS’ march to the Sandton Convention Centre to demand that BRICS leaders leave. Linking issues and constituents, the protestors raised the people’s demands, which include ending exploitation, unemployment, climate change, pollution, violence against women, repression, surveillance, non-delivery of services, austerity, budget cuts, human rights abuses, rampant corruption, racism, xenophobia, extreme inequality, looting resources, sub-imperialism, neoliberalism, dictatorships and homophobia. I think it is very important for poor and marginalised people of Africa to raise their voices against and get the attention of the heads of state of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa whenever they meet to plunder our resources. African activists should also address other heads of state who usually attend as guests of BRICS. They should brief specific constituencies who have mandated them to do so and speak for millions of people who live in Africa, Asia, Latin America and other parts of the world.
To tell the truth I am one of those people opposed to the political and economic agenda of such a summit. It was there to discuss economic policies aimed at making profits for big businesses based in the BRICS countries. The summit did not talk about the poverty and suffering that we live in as the working class and poor people who live in the BRICS countries and other parts of the world. It did not deliberate on how big businesses based in BRICS countries plunder and loot our natural resources and exploit our labour. This was not our summit as the working class and the poor but a summit for the rich and powerful. It was not a summit to challenge Western imperialism, but a summit to find accommodation and a better deal within the imperialist system.