Media miss the point – again

2011-01-08 11:23

The invitation last week for South Africa to join the Bric (Brazil, ­Russia, India and China) bloc marked a historical moment for the role our country is poised to play in shaping a polycentric, fair and ­democratic multi-polar world.

But before we get into what this ­development means, issue should be taken with the local media for the manner in which it ­covers South Africa’s ­international agenda.

Ironically, the invitation to join Bric came in the same week that one weekly publication had given President Jacob Zuma a “D” in its scorecard, stating rather mockingly that the president, like his predecessor, has?­“discovered the joys of world statesmanship”.

No doubt, President Zuma visited a number of countries last year, but informed analysis should have helped us understand what he had achieved, or failed to achieve, on these visits.

The presence of Bric countries on the president’s international itinerary last year, and the strategic imperatives of such, should have been obvious.

The visits to India, Russia and China, and Brazil’s incoming state visit, were all used by Zuma to cement relations and broaden economic and commercial ties.

But because some media have adopted a somewhat isolationist stance when it comes to our international relations, they probably ­never saw this coming. If they did, they did not do justice to the story.

The media, ­especially print, seldom travel with the president yet they have the audacity to pronounce with authority on why these trips do not serve SA’s ­interests and are “a waste of taxpayers’ money”.

Former president Mbeki was the butt of many media jokes for the number of international ­visits he undertook during his ­tenure, and now Zuma is being subjected to the same treatment.

The truth is that both Zuma and Mbeki come from a political tradition that has never been intimidated by the world stage.

International mobilisation, and therefore relations, was one of the pillars of the struggle they waged and has always ­defined their politics.

But the same cannot be said about SA’s media. Thanks to apartheid, it comes from a ­blinkered and inward-looking, isolationist past.

As for what Bric membership means for SA, Goldman Sachs chief economist Jim O’Neill argued in 2001 that “over the next 10 years, the weight of the Bric countries, especially China, in world GDP will grow”.

As a result, “world policymaking forums [will] be ­reorganised” in favour of the Bric countries.

Since then, this economic bloc has taken on greater significance.

Not only have Bric ­countries contributed to more than 50% of the world economy, but they are ­becoming an important political alliance in the global scheme of things.

With a combined population of more than 40% of the world, a combined GDP of $15.435?trillion and their ever-growing economic power, Bric ­countries are poised to command serious geopolitical clout.

SA’s Bric membership places it far beyond just benefiting economically to playing an ­important role in creating conditions for ­global security; the prerequisite of which is an equitable, fair and democratic world order.

SA’s economy is the smallest compared to any of the Bric countries and some may argue that we do not deserve a place in the bloc.

But we are the biggest economy in Africa and this membership gives us the platform to ­promote and push the African agenda.

O’Neill, in an article titled Can African Countries Become the Next “Bric” Nations? argues: “If you were to think about Africa ­collectively, you would see an economy as big as some of the Brics.”

Though this membership raises SA’s political and economic profile, in the final analysis this not only favours us but the entire ­continent.

» ?Mona is the deputy chief executive of the Government ­Communication and Information System

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