I usually try hard to give him the benefit of the doubt, but sometimes our president can be really difficult to understand. As if Mbeki's stance on AIDS and Zimbabwe aren't enough, now we have him working on building up relations with Equatorial Guinea. I can understand that he wants to have EG looking favourably on SA so that we can send observers to the country to monitor the trial of the alleged mercenaries, but wanting to grow business ties and help EG play a greater role in Nepad? EG is after all arguably one of the most tyrannic, anti-democratic countries in Africa. I suppose money wins out after all. Sapa reports that during a two day bilateral meeting with EG President Teodoro Obiang Nguema this week:
South Africa is planning to set up a binational commission with oil-rich Equatorial Guinea to strengthen relations and will soon open its first diplomatic mission in Malabo.These talks follow the signing of the general co-operation agreement in 2003 and reciprocal agreement on the promotion and protection of investments earlier this year.
Our Foreign Affairs Minister, Nkosozana Dlamini-Zuma was quoted as saying that co-operation in the areas of minerals and energy would also be looked at. Energy Minister Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka will visit Equatorial Guinea soon to take this further. Dlamini-Zuma also said that EG had requested more involvment with Nepad, and that SA would be sending officials to the country to help advise them on this.
In this case I agree with the DA's rather irritating Douglas Gibson who said "If the meeting is merely about strengthening diplomatic ties between South African and Equatorial Guinea, that would be deeply concerning. President Obiang Nguema's record is an affront to the principles of good governance as contained in Nepad and the African Union Constitutive Act,
One can only hope that when it comes to Nepad, a little bargaining might take place such as, start working towards holding democratic elections and improving democracy in the country, and we'll think about it.
Incidently, the anti-democratic regime in EG hasn't stopped American, British and other western oil companies from doing business there either. Chevron, Vanco Energy, Total, Marathon Oil Company and ExxonMobil Corp all operate in the country. In fact as
Ken Silverstein of the LA Times reports, Marathon Oil and ExxonMobil are currently being investigated for corruption
in their dealings in EG.
"American oil companies have developed close political and financial ties to the Obiang regime since oil was discovered in Equatorial Guinea in the mid-1990s. Led by ExxonMobil, Amerada Hess and Marathon, U.S. companies now have invested at least $5 billion there. Philippe Vasset of the Paris-based Africa Energy Intelligence said oil companies were Obiang's most important backers. "Equatorial Guinea has no other resources or industries," he said. The companies' business dealings have included using an employment agency owned by a former government minister who is also a relative of Obiang, according to a State Department report issued in 2000. The report said that the agency denied jobs to opposition sympathizers and "allegedly kept nearly two-thirds of employees' wages."