The BRICS, Climate Catastrophe, Resource Plunder and Resistance
Refusing to be outdone, the Indian Government is being praised globally for taking steps to halt carbon emissions, but it too 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 New Delhi’s ambassador to Harare, Rungsung Masakui, “The Indian Government is keen to assist and co-operate with the people of Zimbabwe in projects that uplift your people.” Coal is killing people in India, yet will uplift Zimbabweans? We should instead consider such loans as odious, as there was no consultation with citizens of either country.
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 neighboring 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 Rio-based firm, which apparently has corporate impunity. The Mozambican government seem powerless to restrain Vale.
In Zimbabwe, Vladimir Putin has muscled his way into the lucrative platinum and diamond sectors. After the military coup in November, Putin sent his powerful Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to meet Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa where they agreed to move ahead with a dodgy $3 billion platinum project in Darwendale. Lavrov later revealed to the media that Russia was also interested in Zimbabwe’s diamond sector, adding the two countries will increase military cooperation. But health, access to clean water, food security, jobs and infrastructure development are the main priorities of the Zimbabwean people – not more power to our country’s de facto junta. Beijing’s diversion of diamonds via its military, both back to China through the Anjin company and to the Zimbabwean army, was so notorious already that even former President Robert Mugabe – deposed in a coup last November – admitted that of $15 billion worth of the alluvial stones taken from the Marange fields, less than $2 billion had been accounted for.
As the BRICS leaders arrived in Johannesburg this week, a brics-from-below group also met for a Teach In and two protests, to throw proverbial bricks at the conference of polluters and looters. More than 100 activists held both a picket against the BRICS New Development Bank on Wednesday, and a ‘Break the BRICS’ march to the Sandton Convention Centre on Thursday, to demand that BRICS leaders leave. The main hosting body was the United Front-Johannesburg, whose co-chair Trevor Ngwane ensured a variety of progressive forces made the visit uncomfortable, by raising issues that middle-of-the-road journalists and ‘civil society’ groups dared not address. Other activists were from the Soweto Electricity Crisis Committee, Soweto Action Committee, South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, Earthlife Africa, groundWork, the South African Kashmir Action Group, and solidarity groups with Congo and Rwanda, as well as India’s National Alliance of People’s Movements, the Russian network Openleft.ru and.
Linking issues and constituents, they 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, subimperialism, neoliberalism, dictatorships and homophobia.
With South Africa hosting scores of BRICS-related events this year, as the official host, there is an enormous stress on generating a new hegemony. We feel this in Zimbabwe, where the heavy hand of South Africa has made achieving democracy much more difficult since the 1990s. Thankfully, there are Johannesburg allies who have begun a bottom-up process, with people from all BRICS nations and from the hinterlands of the BRICS countries, together fighting the climate change, plundering and so many other social evils.
Farai Maguwu is a long-standing defender of human and environmental rights, and founder of the Centre for Natural Resource Governance in Harare.