Power, Guns and Minerals in Southern Africa

In Southern Africa there is an area the size of a small country, which is marked on maps as ‘Diamond mining area, access forbidden’. The area itself is somewhat bigger than Wales and helicopters or four wheeled drive vehicles intercept anybody who enters this barren region. In effect the giant diamond-mining conglomerate, De Beers, which in turn is part of South African mega-corporation, Anglo American, runs this small country. Valued at 21 billion dollars, De Beers is only part of Anglo American’s mining interests. As time has rolled by and the regimes have changed in South Africa and Namibia, the regime in this diamond mining area has remained the same — total control by De Beers, for generation after generation.

Of course this all poses the question, what is the real governing force in southern Africa, politics or big business? It is openly admitted that Anglo American controls over 80% of the South African economy, which is vastly bigger than all the other economies in the region. Thus Botswana, a country with a small population but a relatively prosperous one is also totally dependent on De Beers Botswana.

It is difficult to overestimate the power of this company; they negotiate with nations, in fact one of the worlds biggest. For most of this century they had an agreement with Russia whereby they bought all of Russia’s uncut diamonds. Naturally this deal had to be renegotiated with the fall of communism, accordingly it was and the deal still holds. Thus De Beers has a monopoly over the world’s diamond industry. However De Beers is still only a part of the aforementioned and much bigger Anglo American, which controls most of the South African economy and through it the southern African economic zone.

Since its inception, generations ago, Anglo American has been controlled by one family, the Oppenheimer’s. A Jewish family originating from eastern Europe, they were allegedly sponsored in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by the Rothschild’s banking and finance group; likewise the house of Rothschild itself is controlled by one family, the Rothschild’s themselves. Can we really believe that a company with such vast wealth and power as Anglo American is just a blind giant handing over taxes to the government? The truth is probably the other way around; namely that the countries of the region are the blind men being ‘guided’ forward by this mega corporation.

Recently De Beers operations in Angola were threatened when UNITA took over certain diamond mines and began selling off a billion dollars worth of uncut diamonds. De Beers took immediate action hiring the deceptively named Executive Outcomes. In plain language Executive Outcomes is a mercenary army consisting largely of ex-South African, Portuguese and Israeli soldiers. In short order they can put 3,000 men in the field complete with tanks, artillery, large and small helicopters and even MIG jet fighters. Within eighteen months they had brought UNITA to its knees, something nobody else had been able to do for over twenty years. UNITA sued for peace and now they, like everybody else, kow tow to the mining companies.

Executive Outcomes chief executive officer offers ‘the speedy resolution of a conflict without partiality’. They have operated elsewhere in Africa, in Uganda, Sudan and Sierra Leone and further afield in Indonesia and Columbia. Recently it was reported that the company had been disbanded. Perhaps that is so but it seems more likely that this is just a juggling of corporate names and the organisation remains essentially the same.