Monday, June 6
"If we declare the [Darfur] situation genocide, what next? Don't we have to arrest the president [of Sudan]? It doesn't help to make radical statements and all that; we have to work with the situation as it is."That pearl of wisdom from South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki, who visited Washington last week to advise President Bush that African nations need a very clear commitment on aid and debt relief when the world's richest nations meet in Scotland next month.
Mr Mbeki is not satisfied with vague assurances that something will be worked out. He wants President Bush and other leaders of the G7/8 to get down to the brass tacks of just how debt relief is to be financed. Mbeki wants concrete action when it comes to money, but is vague about how far to push the Zimbabwe and Sudanese governments with regard to human rights, democracy, and other tiresome details.
Bush was quite frank in saying that, "countries such as ours are not going to want to give aid to countries that are corrupt or don't hold true to democratic principles, such as rule of law and transparency and human rights and human decency."
But President Mbeki criticized the Bush administration's characterization of Zimbabwe as an "outpost of tyranny" and doesn't think it's helpful to name genocide for what is when dealing with Sudan's government.
All right. We won't get down to brass tacks about....how shall we term it? The unpleasantness in Zimbabwe and Sudan. Mr Mbeki wants concrete suggestions about how to finance the debts of African governments. We aim to please here in Pundita-land so we've put on our thinking cap and come up with a very concrete suggestion. Why not get the Triads and Russian mobs operating in South Africa to finance the debt?
This is a beautiful idea if you stop and think about it. The crime syndicates are already playing benefactor in Africa by employing many AIDS orphans.
Nigeria and increasingly South Africa are the regional centers for TOC [transnational organized crime]. Although not as large a factor as in other regions, links between African rebel factions and organized crime groups are increasing, which is potentially exacerbated by millions of AIDS orphans. Corruption has permeated much of African society and is now perhaps the greatest limit to growth in many countries.But before we get into messy specifics about crime in South Africa, let's get an overview from the AC/UNU Millennium Project:
Transnational organized crime has grown to the point where it is increasingly interfering with the ability of governments to act. Nation-states can be understood as a series of decision points that are vulnerable to the vast amounts of money available to crime groups.Now we'll return to South Africa:
TOC's power in one country can be leveraged to increase power in others. The IMF has estimated that as much as 5% of the global economy--$1.8 trillion per year--is laundered through the international financial system. This understates TOC's total income, since not all income needs to be laundered. Diversification in diamonds, barter, and other media outside traditional currency systems could put the real income to well over $2 trillion per year. ... The vast amount of money amassed by TOC allows its participants to buy the knowledge and technology to create new forms of crime to generate even more profits. ...
As a major locus of maritime trade and air traffic between Asia, Europe, and the Western Hemisphere, South Africa is emerging as a significant hub of international criminal activity. The lifting of international trade sanctions with the end of apartheid has made South Africa readily accessible to international criminals whose operations take place within the framework of legitimate commercial business activities.For the rest of the Millennium report on South African crime visit this link and scroll to the Africa heading. But to really get ourselves educated and understand why it's a great idea to get big-time crooks to shoulder debt relief for Africa's poverty-stricken governments, here is the Must Read:
South Africa's modern airports and harbors--including container ports at Durban, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, and East London--are attractive to criminals smuggling narcotics and other contraband. South Africa's well-developed business connections to the West and political connections to some states of concern can be used by criminals to broker illicit transactions involving arms, controlled technologies, or strategic commodities.
For criminal organizations, South Africa also has the advantage of a modern financial system linked to financial markets worldwide, which facilitates money laundering. And, as happened in Russia, criminal organizations recruit professionals with skills well-suited to competing in the modern business environment who were pushed aside or sidelined by the political and economic changes taking place in South Africa.
With the increase in international travel and business since the apartheid government turned over power in 1994, the scope of organized crime in South Africa has evolved from generally small-scale operations centered in localities to nationwide syndicates....
Foreign organized crime groups, primarily Nigerian, Russian, and Chinese syndicates, have established bases of operations in South Africa since the mid-1990s for a variety of illegal activity, including drug trafficking and other contraband smuggling, poaching and trafficking in endangered species, money laundering, and financial crimes....
Triad Societies and Chinese Organised Crime in South Africa by Peter Gastrow, Organised Crime and Corruption Programme, Institute for Security Studies; Occasional Paper No. 48-2001.
The implications of the writing go far beyond a discussion of Triads operating in South Africa; if you want to understand the modern world, this is the report to study.
In my June 5 essay I mentioned the business concept of Velocity and that China's government had fully grasped Velocity and applied it to great success. The same holds true for the most sophisticated transnational crime syndicates, which include the biggest Triads. The crooks have invested billions USD in building up infrastructures, such as ports, which facilitate global trade in contraband.
So they rip off money from the poor and from the governments (I don't have the latest figures but you can easily estimate $3-5 billion/year ripped off from South Africa's government alone). They vampire the society; they are not interested in turning the society into a trading power, except in contraband. They're not interested in educating the people, except to criminal enterprises: how to excel at the slave trade and doping up their neighbors so they can get them hooked on drugs that keep increasing in price.
But as Thabo Mbeki has reminded us if there are no ugly words there will be no bottleneck situations. So we must speak of the vampires as thoroughly modern businesspeople, which they happen to be.
And they are just as much under the gun of transnational business rules, including the rules of Velocity, as legitimate businesspeople. If the crooks don't get the goods shipped to the customer fast enough, if the goods are damaged--they get beat out by a competitor.
That information is light at the end of the tunnel for those seeking a truly workable and fair means of debt relief for African nations--and indeed for all the governments asking the G7/8 to cough up.
All you need is a coordinated effort to slow business to a crawl at certain docks and at times that can't be predicted by the crooks. How can this be done? Well, look for the Vial or the Thingy, or whatever Alfred Hitchcock termed it. As he explained it doesn't matter what it is; it matters that everyone is trying to find it.
To find the Vial, you need to take apart shipping containers and send in Vial sniffing doggies. Use dogs who are so old they couldn't smell a piece of Limburger cheese if it rested on their nose.
Also send in legions of inspectors to root around in the containers. Hire the oldest and most arthritic people and preferably the clumsiest.
By now you have the general idea. Make as much mess and confusion as possible, break as many widgets as can be broken, and slow things at the docks to the pace of a snail's mambo. Then put out the message: "Send your donations, earmarked Debt Relief, to the nearest American embassy."
I guarantee that within one month enough money will materialize to keep Africa afloat for the coming decade.