26 February 2019

Africa: Morocco, the Western Sahara and SA's Inverted Moral Compass

opinion

South Africa's foreign policy is my moral compass. Whatever it is vociferously for, I am instinctively against. This is not only down to its ambivalence towards human rights abuses and electoral niceties (which it once deemed to make a policy lodestar) over at least two decades in Zimbabwe, but its spectacular record in supporting authoritarian regimes across the globe, from voting in the United Nations to selling arms.

In fact, South Africa appears to be clearer on what it is against than what it stands for. So, when Pretoria bangs on about independence for the Western Sahara and the Sahrawi people from Morocco, an old drum absorbing much ANC foreign policy literature and statements, is this because of old liberation ties, or its cosy relationship with Algiers, or is there really a case to be made for independence?

Western Sahara is a harsh place of desert flatlands and searing temperatures, of a nomadic people legendary for toughness as much as the colourful flowing Mahlfa robes "with built-in air conditioning" worn by its women. It is one of the world's most sparsely populated areas with just two people in each of its 266,000km2, ranking it just above the three less populated...

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