SA BDS Coalition protests AGOA

The South African Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (SA BDS) Coalition 1 November 2023

The South African Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (SA BDS) Coalition and other Palestine solidarity activists will protest on Saturday 4 November from 10:00 am outside Nasrec in Johannesburg against the African Growth and Opportunity Agreement (AGOA) forum in Johannesburg. There can be no business as usual with the United States government while it sends weapons and military equipment to Apartheid Israel, proudly publicising to the world that they sent an ‘additional’ plane load of armaments, including munitions, that arrived in Israel after 7 October on top of the regular minimum $3.8 billion a-year for military aid. US President Biden is pushing for an emergency budget to massively increase this amount. It could not be clearer that the US is arming Apartheid Israel’s unfolding genocide on the Palestinian people.

The AGOA forum runs from 2-4 November. The AGOA trade agreement with the United States seeks to increase preferential market access to the US for select Sub-Saharan African countries keen to do business with American companies.

As the South African people are demanding a ceasefire and immediate humanitarian aid, the US vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that would have allowed the very minimum - humanitarian pauses to deliver lifesaving aid to millions in Gaza. This vote made it clear to the world that the US is complicit in genocide.

It is unconscionable that President Ramaphosa, Minister Patel and the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC) is playing host to high level US government representatives as the US military-industrial complex is complicit in the ongoing Israeli murder of more than 8,306 Palestinians trapped in Gaza - one Palestinian child is being killed every ten minutes – and 122 Palestinians have been murdered in the West Bank since 7 October. The SA BDS Coalition calls on organised labour to pull out of the AGOA Forum in protest at the US-funded Israeli ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. Trade analyst and former NUMSA parliamentary officer Woody Aroun asked: "Is trade worth more than the life of a Palestinian child?"

"The US is the world’s biggest financial supporter of Israel, an Apartheid state whose separate roads for Israelis and Palestinians, repeated military attacks on Palestinians by air and land, checkpoints to prevent Palestinian freedom of movement, and forced dompas system bear striking resemblances to Apartheid in South Africa. Organised labour’s current meek participation in the AGOA summit sharply contrasts with their publicly stated positions of unwavering solidarity with the Palestinian people. The ANC government and organised labour’s continued participation in high-level talks with the US government amounts to a passive and muted response towards Israel’s continued aggression against the people of Palestine", said Aroun.

The South African government, along with most of humanity voted on Friday at the UNGA, 121 - 14, against the US-Israel axis, despite the bullying, intimidation, and propaganda, and for an “immediate, durable and sustained humanitarian truce.” This was a vote against genocide and against US-Western neocolonial hegemony and for justice and accountability.

Anti-apartheid activist, Rev Dr Allan Boesak said: "why is South Africa playing host to representatives of nations engaged in open, declared genocide, in targeted killings and bombardments of innocent Palestinians?"

We call on Ramaphosa to support our foreign policy direction, stand up to the US bullies and demand the US support an immediate ceasefire, humanitarian aid with UN protection for the 2.3 million Palestinians under cruel siege in the open-air prison of Gaza as a prerequisite for trade talks to commence. Our President must publicly reject the US-Israel axis plans for forced transfer of Palestinians within Gaza and from Gaza to Sinai, Egypt. Dr Dale McKinley, political analyst and educator at the Cape Town-based International Labour, Research and Information Group (ILRIG) said "it is almost beyond belief that South Africa could host a US government Minister as the US backs the Israeli government to the hilt in its assault on the Palestinians of Gaza and the West Bank, committing genocidal acts against Palestinians while cutting economic deals. It is not only hypocritical but sad in the context of South Africa's own history in calling for international boycotts and cutting off of those who would support tyranny and oppression. That Ramaphosa and the South African government have decided to proceed with the AGOA summit indicates that economic access to US markets and corporate interests trump human rights and humanity, and solidarity with the Palestinians".

The South African BDS Coalition reiterates our demands on the ANC government:
• Declare the Israeli Ambassador in Pretoria persona non grata and sever diplomatic relations.
• Prosecute South Africans joining the Israeli occupation forces in total contravention of our Regulation of Foreign Military Assistance Act
• End sports, cultural, academic and other links with apartheid Israel and corporations complicit in Israeli apartheid.

For interviews, please call:
Woody Aroun: trade analyst and former NUMSA parliamentary officer - 082 562 3670
Prof Salim Vally: academic and Palestine solidarity activist – 082 802 5936
Dale Mckinley: political and labour analyst - 072 429 4086
Mametlwe Sebei: GIWUSA President - 081 368 0706
Roshan Dadoo: SA BDS Coalition Co-ordinator - 082 816 2799

Why South Africans should oppose AGOA
· First, the lack of mainstream critique of U.S. imperialism’s backing of sub-imperial Israel – as former lead metalworker educator Woody Aroun eloquently argued last week – is one of the most extreme silences in the establishment’s framing of AGOA.

· Second, AGOA amplifies SA’s already extreme energy injustice, since the main beneficiaries (smelters, deep mines, petrochems and autos) are members of the Energy Intensive Users Group, which abuse very cheap power (e.g. BHP Billiton chews up 7% of the grid at just R0.30/kWh - which is 1/8th the unit cost I see on my CityPower bill) and they hire very few workers, in comparison to the electricity-starved small businesses, labour-intensive industries and women (reproducing labour in households under conditions of patriarchy), who would use that power more efficiently and humanely.

· Third, there is extreme climate injustice associated with AGOA’s SA beneficiaries since not only do they use coal-fired power, their own production systems are extremely CO2 intensive. That in turn will attract not only European but also U.S. ‘Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism’ climate sanctions within the next few years, so renewing AGOA for these big multinational corporates (which illicitly export their profits anyhow) will only bring workers heartbreak once those huge facilities are compelled to shut down.

· Fourth, the AGOA-benefiting car makers – Mercedes, VW, BMW, Toyota and Ford (all of which cheated on their emissions testing) – are already hugely subsidised by Pretoria (R30 billion year for exports) and yet the SA auto industry is still locked into petrol and diesel engines, so out of 500 000 cars produced in South Africa annually, none are electric vehicles.

· Fifth, in none of the public discussions and formal demands related to AGOA, there’s no obvious scope for decarbonizing through a genuine Just Transition, i.e. a plan to ensure trade unions, individual workers and their communities are not losers during the energy and transport transition, and hence not forever dominated by (and supportive of) the Western imperialist and BRICS+ sub-imperialist Minerals Energy Complex.

· Sixth, many of the products exported via AGOA are the result of SA’s depleted natural mineral wealth – the nonrenewable resources pulled from underground, at enormous environmental cost – which are not properly compensated for by multinational corporations, impoverishing future generations which won’t have access to those minerals. The resulting ‘unequal ecological exchange’ associated with minerals and metals trade (like the unequal exchange that follows from labour super-exploitation in Africa) is one of the main reasons why the continent remains impoverished, and why South Africa is losing net wealth (even when set against income from the AGOA sales).

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Should labour withdraw from the Agoa summit while Israel bombs Gaza?

Interview with Mametlwe Sebei, President of the General Industrial Workers Union of SA on AGOA


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