Defend Truth


BRICS building towards an end to unipolarity and north-south development divides that disempower nations 

BRICS building towards an end to unipolarity and north-south development divides that disempower nations 
Deputy President Shipokosa Paulus Mashatile at the BRICS Political Parties Dialogue in Johannesburg on 18 July, 2023.(Photo: Kopano Tlape/GCIS)

This opening address was delivered by ANC Deputy President Shipokosa Paulus Mashatile at the BRICS Political Parties Dialogue in Johannesburg on 18 July, 2023.

I am honoured to open the Political Parties Plus Dialogue meeting, which is taking place under the theme: “BRICS and Africa: Partnership for Mutually Accelerated Growth, Sustainable Development, and Inclusive Multilateralism.”

The commencement of this summit coincides with Nelson Mandela International Day, an annual global event to honour the life and legacy of President Mandela. Officially adopted and declared by the United Nations (UN) in November 2009, Mandela Day seeks to mobilise people, communities, and organisations around the world to reflect on the values and principles that made President Mandela and his generation of liberators and to spend 67 minutes engaged in community work.

For those of us who were in the trenches with Nelson Mandela, these are the values of:

  • liberation from colonial and racist minority rule;
  • selflessness and loyalty to principle;
  • democracy, non-racism, non-sexist and democracy and;
  • international solidarity and the equality of nations, amongst others.

Speaking of international solidarity, we must, once again, thank the support extended to us by the peoples of Africa and the rest of the world during the period of the struggle for our liberation. Our struggle benefited immensely from the cross-pollination of the human experience with other nations in many respects, including with regard to elements that came to constitute our policy perspectives.

The adoption of Nelson Mandela Day by the UN illustrates how the struggle for the liberation of South Africa came, over time, to impact positively on the world as a whole. Our commitment to promoting people-to-people-relations as one of the pillars for building a strong partnership should lead to deliberate programmes to educate our peoples about our common history, cooperation, and anti-colonial and apartheid struggles. This should provide the basis for popular appreciation of institutions such as BRICS which are often subjected to antagonistic affronts by our detractors.

Students of history appreciate the genesis of the underdevelopment and unipolarity we seek to change and replace with the Partnership for Mutually Accelerated Growth, Sustainable Development, and Inclusive Multilateralism, in which Africa and the Global South must take their rightful place in the ordering of global affairs.

Certainly, on the African continent, underdevelopment and unipolarity are a result of the many centuries of colonialism and, in the South African case, apartheid, as well as marginalisation as a characteristic feature of the relationship between the developed north and the underdeveloped South.

BRICS was formed precisely because of the north-south development disparities and, as president Julius Nyerere put it in the 1990 Report of the South Commission, to enhance South-South cooperation and “widen developmental options for all [South] countries”. As president Nyerere observed then, it should no longer be the case that “each country is forced to make its own mistakes without being able to learn from the experience of others in a similar situation and benefit from their successes”.

The ANC, as I am sure political parties from other BRICS-member states, is greatly encouraged by the show of interest in joining this economic block by many countries on the continent and the world.

This illustrates that many of the world’s 8 billion citizens see their future in a truly multipolar world, which represents global diversity and multipolarity. As president Nyerere put it in the 1990 Report of the South Commission: “The primary bond that links the countries and peoples of the South is their desire to escape from poverty and underdevelopment and secure a better life for their citizens. This shared inspiration is a foundation for their solidarity”.

This bond arises from a shared common history of colonialism, an enduring marginalisation from its legacy, and unequal North-South relations. In this context, the global South rightly sees its survival in BRICS and similarly organised bodies geared towards an alternative world.

BRICS and developmental states

Much of the world now sees its survival within the ambit of institutions such as BRICS. This is an affirmation of alternatives to the unipolar world and its effects on the world.

The 1990 Report of the South Commission led by president Nyerere stated the objectives of the South in terms that are very similar to those of the ANC and I believe those of existing and many aspirant members of BRICS as follows:

“The South’s vision has to embrace the whole world, for it is part of that world. It cannot isolate itself; nor should it wish to isolate itself from the rest of the world.

“On the contrary, the South seeks an undivided world in which there would be no ‘South’ and no ‘North,’ in which there would not be one part developed, rich, and dominating, and the other underdeveloped, poor, and dominated. The South’s goal is a world of equal opportunities in which crisscrossing lines of interaction — political, economic, social, cultural, scientific — may sustain global interdependence; in which nations in their variety would work together in pursuit of jointly agreed goals; in which peace, security, and dignity would be the birthright of all persons and all peoples; in which all can take advantage of the advances of science; and in which the world’s resources may be prudently used to satisfy the needs of all and not merely the narrow self-interest of a few.”

This suggests that political parties in existing and aspirant BRICS member states should endeavour to socialise political policies that position them to achieve the world as envisioned in the 1990 South Commission Report. Specifically with regard to the theme of this summit, political parties should, advisedly, construct states that mobilise the broadest social partnership to achieve mutually accelerated growth, sustainable development, and inclusive multilateralism — in short, developmental states!

Because the angel is in the principle and the devil in the detail, it is not enough to identify a vision. We must strive to translate the broad vision into concrete details, without which the vision will amount to nothing more than a mere wish. This is a challenge for many governments and an institution like BRICS needs to be mindful of it especially because it is composed of varying levels of governmental institutional capacity.

Striving for equity

Yet another challenge is that although we share a common vision of Partnership for Mutually Accelerated Growth, Sustainable Development, and Inclusive Multilateralism, we have different levels of economic development and geo-political positioning in a world that is increasingly returning to the ebullience and polarisation of the Cold War.

Just last week, we read this concluding assertion in an essay in a leading foreign affairs journal: “Countries cannot have their cake and eat it, too. The time for choosing has arrived. Countries will have to decide whether to side, or appear to side, with Washington or Beijing. The United States, rather than reassuring capitals that no such choice is in the offing, should accept this reality and help foreign capitals make the right decisions.”

We do not subscribe to this position. Consistent with the position adopted and articulated in the 1990 South Commission Report, we choose the side of the peoples of China, the United States and the world. 

The idea that there exist two binary opposites is also in contrast with the decisions that BRICS took in 2011 when it decided on the following guiding principles amongst its members:

  • Openness;
  • Pragmatism;
  • Solidarity;
  • Non-bloc nature; and
  • Neutrality with regard to third parties.

Nevertheless, South Africa has recently been subjected to immense pressure in order to choose a side in the ongoing war in Ukraine. The ANC would like to firmly reiterate its anti-war stance which we have asserted since the war began more than a year ago. We are for the silencing of the guns in Ukraine, the achievement of genuine peace and the peaceful co-existence between Russia, Ukraine and the neighbourhood.

We are fully behind the African peace initiative led by President Cyril Ramaphosa and seven other African Heads of State and Government to find a peaceful solution to the conflict by initiating dialogue between presidents Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelensky.

We note that cynics have, as is their wont, rushed to impose a death sentence on the African effort by describing it prematurely as a failure. It is difficult to understand how these doomsayers expected that a solution to the conflict would have been sought and found after just one meeting!

Nevertheless, we are confident that the African Peace Initiative, as led by President Ramaphosa, will ultimately succeed. We are keenly aware that the solution will not be found overnight.

The ANC also believes that true inclusive multilateralism of the type with which all BRICS members would, in principle, be aligned involves the reform of institutions of global governance, especially the United Nations Security Council. 

The ANC proposes that this political party summit adopts a public call for the reform of the UN Security Council, more so the inclusion of the African continent in the global decision-making body.

The combined influence and potential of BRICS cannot be understated. For this reason, we should expect that it will have detractors who will, from time to time, throw spanners in the works in order to frustrate us from realising our goals. We should respond to such machinations by harnessing our efforts to promote sustainable economic growth and development.

With these words, I would like to welcome you to this Political Parties Plus Dialogue meeting.

Thank you. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Eberhard Knapp says:

    Mr Mashatile – have you ever taken note of the stunningly positive correlation between a country’s corruption Index and the poverty prevailing in that country? And that this index is mostly way above average for countries in Africa – as it is for undemocratic countries in general?

  • Gary Wright says:

    Corrupt and incompetent governments disempower nations Mr Mashatile.

  • Jon Quirk says:

    Mr Mashatile, you are quite right that Africa was “marginalised” for centuries, and not just by Europeans, but the whole World, but equally, sub-Saharan Africa had “marginalised” the rest of the World, because it exactly that – an irrelevant, backwater that contributed little to the World, traded with none, and simply few even knew, other that the Mediterranean border countries, much about it at all.

    You go on to say “the African continent, underdevelopment and unipolarity are a result of the many centuries of colonialism and, in the South African case, apartheid”, and in this you are simply wrong. Even the Bantu-speaking peoples, originating in West Africa, only reached South Africa, around 200 years ago, arriving contemporaneously with the Great Trek, that expanded out of the Cape outpost, which had been a re-victualling stop off for the East India trading company the VOC, since the 1650’s but had expanded little beyond the Cape Town environs until also the mid 19th century.

    If you are going to quote history, at least make a minimum effort to ensure you are factually based.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted


This article is free to read.

Sign up for free or sign in to continue reading.

Unlike our competitors, we don’t force you to pay to read the news but we do need your email address to make your experience better.

Nearly there! Create a password to finish signing up with us:

Please enter your password or get a sign in link if you’ve forgotten

Open Sesame! Thanks for signing up.

We would like our readers to start paying for Daily Maverick...

…but we are not going to force you to. Over 10 million users come to us each month for the news. We have not put it behind a paywall because the truth should not be a luxury.

Instead we ask our readers who can afford to contribute, even a small amount each month, to do so.

If you appreciate it and want to see us keep going then please consider contributing whatever you can.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

Daily Maverick Elections Toolbox

Download the Daily Maverick Elections Toolbox.

+ Your election day questions answered
+ What's different this election
+ Test yourself! Take the quiz