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Note: This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.

Africa: Gauteng Declaration on Debt

Africa: Gauteng Declaration on Debt
Date distributed (ymd): 990408
Document reposted by APIC

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Region: Continent-Wide
Issue Areas: +economy/development+
Summary Contents:
This posting contains the text of the Gauteng Declaration issued by delegates at the Southern African Debt Summit in Johannesburg, 21 March 1999. It also contains a statement by the Canadian Ecumenical Jubilee Initiative on new Canadian proposals for debt cancellation. For additional links and background see the Africa Policy debt page (

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APIC Book Note

**New and Highly Recommended**

Thandika Mkandawire and Charles C. Soludo, Our Continent, Our Future: African Perspectives on Structural Adjustment. Trenton, NJ and Asmara, Eritrea: Africa World Press, 1999. 176 pp. Paperback. $21.95 list price (discount available on Jointly published with International Development Research Centre (Ottawa, Canada) and CODESRIA (Dakar, Senegal). ISBN: 086543705X

Must reading for anyone concerned to understand African development strategies. Particularly recommended for those involved in the debate about trade and new U.S. policies towards Africa. Written as a synthesis of work by leading African social scientists, this book is concise, clear, non-rhetorical and solidly based on empirical work. It not only provides a devastating critique of standard "structural adjustment" models, but also lays out an alternative strategy for African-directed growth and development. -- William Minter, APIC Senior Research Fellow

Mkandawire and Soludo on debt (p. 122):

"All efforts to find out why stabilization or adjustment has not worked, why investment has not resumed, and why the state capacity has been further eroded will fail unless this single but dominant issue -- debt overhang -- is included."

Order Our Continent, Our Future from through APIC's Africa Web Bookshop ( and earn a 15% referral fee from for APIC.

Southern African Jubilee Debt Summit

Gauteng Declaration
Freedom from Debt = Freedom from Domination

[for more information contact Jubilee 2000 South Africa at or Jubilee 2000 Afrika at]

On the eve of the new millennium, we are witnessing the rapid growth of Jubilee 2000 structures and debt coalitions across the region to tackle the existing problems we face and to move to a new millennium of hope and change.

The vast majority of the people of sub-Saharan Africa live in pervasive poverty. In Southern Africa tens of millions of people are hungry, homeless, jobless, formally uneducated and die from preventable diseases.

Yet Southern Africa is not intrinsically poor. Indeed, it is a region rich in natural and human resources. Debt slavery, the same system of debt bondage that excludes four fifths of the world's population from economic and social development, is a central part of this nightmare. Southern Africa is shackled by debt owed to the same forces which initiated, enforced, condoned and sustained slavery and colonialism. Today this debt is both a manifestation and an instrument of the unjust international economic order in which the North dominates the South and the elites in our countries are willing accomplices and beneficiaries. Countries in Southern Africa pay as much as 40% of its export earnings to service the debt. This outflow of resources in debt repayments along with profit remittances have led to the most wretched of human conditions.

Not only is the debt burden choking the life of Southern Africa's human potential, indebted nations have also been pressurised to agree to crippling conditionalities to get loans to repay the debt in a deepening spiral of indebtedness. The Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) have caused increasing levels of unemployment, reduced government services, higher prices of food and other basic commodities and intensified poverty.

Through the imposition of export-led growth, financial and trade liberalisation, fiscal austerity, privatization and deregulation, our economies remain sources of cheap raw materials and pools of cheap labour for the interests of the industrialised North. Through SAPs our governments have become more accountable to the elites of the North rather than to their own people. We have been denied the right to be active participants in the decision making process of our own development. In this sense we see how debt has come to be an instrument of control and domination.

The domination of the North over the South has led to conditions which have spawned wars and conflicts in our region that have further exacerbated the levels of poverty, human suffering - and debt bondage.

The legacy of apartheid compounds this situation. Southern Africa, as a region, suffers the effects of apartheid-caused debt. Apartheid-sponsored wars and economic destabilisation forced nations to borrow billions of dollars because of the international communities' failure to enforce the international law violated by apartheid.

Over two million people have been killed in Southern Africa in apartheid-related wars, millions more have been maimed and thousands of schools, clinics, bridges and roads have been destroyed. Today, Southern African nations are paying millions of dollars annually to service apartheid-caused debt to creditors who were in the main supporters of apartheid. The total cost of apartheid-caused destabilisation in Southern Africa is far greater than the actual apartheid-caused debts. The former estimated cost exceeds US$115-billion while apartheid-caused debt is some $27-billion.

Wars have now escalated to the point of forcing states of the region to borrow even more and thereby further deepen our dependence on militarised politics and economic management.

Under these circumstances the debt of Southern Africa is illegitimate and immoral. Yet there is a debt which we do recognise - a moral debt. This is the debt that our governments, the governments of the G7/8, multilaterals and international commercial banks owe us for unbuilt and broken down schools, for women and girls who continue to bear the burden of poverty and for the jobs, homes, clean water and all the fundamental human rights we do not have.

We thus demand:

  • the unconditional, immediate and total cancellation of the debt;
  • the immediate termination of the conditions attached to all the internationally designed debt relief mechanisms to tying this to further economic adjustment; and
  • the scrapping of the HIPC initiative

The only conditions we recognise are those that are developed by the popular and representative civil society organisations. We believe that the results of debt cancellation can only benefit our people if it is accompanied by deep-going processes of democratisation, the upholding of human rights - including workers rights - transparency, accountability and the provision of basic social services.

We reiterate the call for reparations in the 1993 Abuja Declaration embracing the totality of all the quantifiable and unquantifiable costs that have been incurred. Reparations must compensate for economic and social damage incurred by our people, to finance the rebuilding of our own infrastructure and society and to restore our dignity. We believe reparations are long overdue as our initiative to regain control over our destiny and to ensure that the African holocaust will never occur again.

We call for the building of a new democratic world order upon the eradication of the present order that continues to bond us to debt through the ties of free trade, exploitative and extractive movement of Transnational corporate investment, volatile and speculative hot money flows; all within an ideology concocted by a tiny minority based in the USA, the so called 'Washington Consensus'.

We see the gathering of Jubilee 2000 coalitions and other popular forces in Cologne in June as an important step in the march towards the realisation of the objectives of our unifying movements. We demand that the G7 and Bretton Woods Institutions do justice to us but are under no illusion that this will happen without an intensification of popular pressure. That is why we deem it necessary to galvanise our forces in buliding up momentum for a strong South-South coaliton and our own agenda for total liberation at the South-South Summit.

We affirm the Accra, Rome and Tegucigalpa Declarations and the World Council of Churches Harare Statement on Debt and welcome the forthcoming Asia Pacific Jubilee summit as part of our South-South Jubilee process. We call on our Church and other civil society allies in the North to support our struggle and the process that has led to this and previous declarations. In so doing they would be transforming themselves, as we desire, into vehicles of genuine solidarity within a Jubilee 2000 global movement led by the South for a new world in the new millennium.

On our part we shall continue to build Jubilee 2000 coalitions that will empower the broad masses of people to respond effectively to all the challenges posed by the debt crisis and the Jubilee clarion for a new millennium. We mean in this regard people-to-people campaigning to build our own power, capacity and "globalisation of solidarity" networking in order to ensure the achievement of our goals. We are building our campaign in such a way that will secure debt cancellation by all possible means, including exerting pressure upon all those concerned or by the collective mass action of unified South debt repudiation if necessary.

We are calling upon everybody to act accordingly and thus contribute towards realising the above objectives. Most importantly, let us boost each other's confidence in our collective ability to achieve these goals through principled unity, South-to South, and South-to-North.

Finally, we commit ourselves to self-determination in working for debt cancellation within a broader concept of Jubilee, including assertion of our sovereignty from Northern domination and transformation towards an alternative global economic system.

Southern African Debt Summit
Johannesburg, 21st March 1999
Jubilee 2000 Southern African Coalitions

Affirmed by delegates from: Angola, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Jubilee 2000 Afrika and Jubilee 2000 Coalitions from Latin America and Philippines


The Canadian Ecumenical Jubilee Initiative

Press Release
Toronto, March 26, 1999

The Canadian Ecumenical Jubilee Initiative
P.O. Box 772, Station F
Toronto, ON, M4Y 2N6, CANADA
Tel: 416.922.1592 (x 30); Fax: 416.922.0957

Government Debt Relief Strategy a Step in the Right Direction,
Say Canadian Churches, But More is Needed

The Canadian government's debt relief strategy announced yesterday by Prime Minister Chretien is a positive step towards addressing the twenty year old debt crisis, say officials with the Canadian Ecumenical Jubilee Initiative, a coalition of over thirty church denominations and church related groups in Canada. However, given the urgency of the problem and the barrier to meeting the human needs of the world's poorest people that the debt crisis represents, more must be done.

"We welcome the challenge Canada has put to other creditor countries for 100% cancellation of the debt owed by some poor countries," says Jennifer Henry, an official of the Jubilee Initiative. "We also support Canada's willingness to move alone if in fact other creditor countries are not up to this challenge. Canada has raised the bar for meaningful action at the G-8 meeting in June."

The Canadian proposal begins to fall down, says the Jubilee Initiative, in the limited number of countries deemed eligible for 100% debt cancellation. The Canadian churches have called for urgent and complete cancellation of the bilateral and multilateral debts of the world's fifty poorest countries, while the government's announcement covers only about thirty.

In his speech given yesterday, the Prime Minister emphasizes the need to "forgive debt and grant further credits to countries that increase spending on education and health for their people and reduce spending on weapons and the military." The churches welcome the considerations of human rights in debtor countries, but point to a bitter irony if structural adjustment conditions remain in place.

Under the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative, the IMF and World Bank oblige poor countries, through structural adjustment programs, to reduce their spending on education and health in order to qualify for debt relief. Alejandro Bendana of the Nicaraguan Jubilee Initiative reports that "creditor countries have overseen the crumbling of our social infrastructure with devastating impacts on the poor." Under the Canadian proposal, the structural adjustment requirement, while reduced in length, still remains.

"To continue these austerity conditions and then talk of offering debt relief only to countries prepared to increase social spending, is equivalent to whacking someone on the head and then offering them aspirin," says Dennis Howlett of the Jubilee Initiative. "Another bell here, another whistle there within HIPC cannot redeem it. A whole new approach is needed." Bendana notes that to be consistent, the Prime Minister's concern for human rights must include a rejection of structural adjustment programs which are themselves causes of violations of social and economic rights.

Although the churches are calling for a new multilateral debt cancellation framework, they are pleased that the Canadian government advocates adding several new countries to the original HIPC list.

The Jubilee Initiative is opposed to creditors dictating the terms of debt relief. They propose an international mechanism whereby creditors and debtors -- including representatives from civil society organizations -- can negotiate together the terms of debt relief and the allocation of savings. In addition, they want to see the list of countries eligible for some form of debt cancellation further expanded to include so-called "middle-income countries" which also have crushing debt loads.

Jubilee officials vowed to keep up the pressure on the Chretien government as it heads towards the G-8 meeting in Germany this coming June. They plan to present one of the largest petitions in Canadian history to the Prime Minister before the summit. The petition will demonstrate Canadian public support for a radically new beginning for the world's impoverished people as they enter the new millennium. Several hundred thousand signatures have already been collected across the country.

For more information, contact:

Jennifer Henry, Ecumenical Coalition for Economic Justice, Canadian Ecumenical Jubilee Initiative
416-462-1613; E-mail:

Dennis Howlett, Ten Days for Global Justice, Canadian Ecumenical Jubilee Initiative
416-463-5312; E-mail:

Dale Hildebrand, Inter-Church Action, Canadian Ecumenical Jubilee Initiative
416-461-3634; E-mail:

This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC). APIC's primary objective is to widen the policy debate in the United States around African issues and the U.S. role in Africa, by concentrating on providing accessible policy-relevant information and analysis usable by a wide range of groups and individuals.

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