By Howard Sackstein
Howard Sackstein writes to Kgalema Motlanthe asking what's on offer, and how much it will be.
Dear Mr President,
Please forgive me. I was both inexcusably wrong and hopelessly naive. I mistakenly used to believe that South African foreign policy should somehow reflect the moral lessons that we, as a nation, learned during the lengthy period of our dark ages. But Mr President, I now realise that I was utterly puerile and hopelessly callow.
Why should our facade to the world reflect those lofty and wishy-washy ideals contained in our constitution? I have now belatedly realised that, like so many other state assets, we have merely privatised our country's foreign policy - and why not, I ask?
So what, if we have sold our foreign policy on the occupation of Tibet and the oppression of the people of Burma to China. I am sure we have received good value for this - and those trendy knock-off shoes sown by those industrious little 6 year olds and the thousands of prisoners on death row will no doubt be shipped to us even cheaper. And let's face it, during these tough economic times who can afford a pair of real Prada shoes when fake ones come at one hundredth of the price.
I now understand that Deputy Minister Hajaig's racist anti-semitic outburst was probably sponsored by Iran, as was out refusal to co-sponsor the General Assembly resolution on Holocaust denial and our mysterious absence to vote in its favour. I hope we got proper money from those Iranians, I hear they have a glut of Persian carpets, also handily made by entrepreneurial tweens, and they are good hagglers so, I hope we bargained well for the best deal.
I presume our entire Middle East policy has been purchased by Arab petro dollars - I hope they didn't pay us in oil - you know what's happened to the price of crude these days. Don't do anything for Hamas or Hizbollah without pre-payment - I hear from other countries that they are not good payers.
Rumour has it that we bartered our Zimbabwe foreign policy to Bob for some farms. I hope the rumour's not true that the farms went to politicians rather than to the treasury - foreign policy is a state asset and we all need to benefit from its sale. Did we give him back Captain Morgan because he didn't pay us in full?
I can't for the life of me understand what President Lt-Gen Omar el-Bashir of Sudan gave us in return for the protection we have afforded him for his genocide in Darfur - I don't think those Sudanese have much? But then again I hear that the Chinese are generally willing to underwrite el-Bashir's debts, maybe we gave his protection as part of a bigger package deal, like one of those Fifa 2010 packages you can buy on the internet. Make sure you get a guarantee from a Chinese Bank. Let's face it, when its time to collect, the last place you want a guarantee from is Citi Bank or Barclays.
It's quite evident to me that our participation in the much maligned UN Human Rights Council must be a very lucrative enterprise for us. It's almost like a spot on the International Olympic Committee. I bet Pakistan and the Organisation of Islamic Congress coughed up lots of cash for our vote against freedom of expression on religion and to not support the General Assembly declaration on gay rights - how did those things get into our Constitution anyway?
Trevor Manuel must be loving it! Who needs taxes when your entire Budget can be funded by foreign countries and organizations buying your foreign policy. No wonder he came out in support of our decision to deny a visa to the Dalai Lama. From what I understand His Holiness, the saffron clad monk, earns very little salary and could probably not even have afforded the Visa fees even if we had granted it to him. The Pope, on the other hand, has an entire empire and art works worth billions - when he wants a Visa let's put the price up - he can afford it. It's a similar system that the British seem to be using against us when we want to go watch their Queen in concert at Buckingham Palace.
You may have to share a little of the bounty with Minister Hogan - those random outburst of rational principle are enough to frighten away any purchaser.
So now Mr President, this brings me to the real point of my letter. It's my mother's birthday in April and I was really not sure what to buy her as a gift - and then I thought, why not buy her one of our country's foreign policies.
I don't have that much money, so I doubt I could afford a really important foreign policy like condemning Russia for its invasion of Georgia or its gross human rights violations in Chechnya or for that matter condemning the abuse of women in Arab countries or their lack of democracy and I am convinced I couldn't afford a policy to criticise Hamas for firing nearly 10 000 rockets at Israel over the last few years. I am sure that would cost a lot because I would have to pay the government, ANC and Cosatu.
I was thinking more on the lines of doing something to an obscure unimportant nation. So, how much would it cost to impose sanctions on Micronesia? Or what is the price to lobby to elect the King of Bhutan as Secretary General of the United Nations?
I was also thinking of an international campaign against the banking secrecy or tax evasion status of Belize or the Cayman Islands, but if any of our politicians have stashed their cash there, it may be a little too rich for my budget to buy that particular foreign policy.
I am sure I have not exhausted all the options on the menu so, I kindly ask you or your foreign minister to e-mail me a price list for all of our foreign policy options and I am sure I will be able to find one that will make my mother really happy on her special day, and that I can afford.
I live in hope that one day, the people of this great tapestry which is our nation, will be able to once again look upon our government with respect and pride.
Wednesday, April 01, 2009
By Howard Sackstein