The completion of a leadership transition in South Africa and the consolidation of security in Angola following 30 years of civil war means the the competition between the two southern African countries to become the dominant regional power has finally begun.
That’s the view of US geopolitical think Stratfor in its annual forecast for 2010.
“The players have different strengths and vulnerabilities, though each has its own power base and means of leverage. South Africa is wealthier and boasts a stronger military and industrial base,” Stratfor says.
“Angola boasts a brutally effective security service and abundant revenue from its now-robust oil industry.”
Stratfor adds competition “will start off rather sedately”, this year with Angola offering bits of its diamond industry and sales of crude oil as a means of keeping relations with South Africa friendly.
“But it will not be long before something like a cold war — that is, a conflict using proxy dissident factions — erupts between the two. The factions’ operations in 2010 will be limited to the political realm, however, rather than an all-out war like the one between Angola and South Africa in the 1970s and 1980s.
“Both states plan to shape Zimbabwe to their liking, and competition there will heat up as Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s health (or general disagreeability) takes him out of the picture. Already both are manoeuvring their allies into position.
“There will also be no shortage of action within the two countries as each attempts to sow chaos within the other.
“South Africa has plenty of contacts among Angola’s various ethnicities that date back to the civil war — the governing Mbundu are actually a minority (albeit a sizeable one) of Angola’s population — that it will reactivate.
“The group likely to attract the most South African patronage will be the Ovimbundu, the group that fought the Mbundu most fiercely during much of the civil war,” Stratfor adds.
Angola will return the favour by establishing links with the upper echelons of South Africa’s much more powerful — but also much more fractious — military, and with factions within South Africa’s governing alliance, the US think-tank adds.
“In particular, Angola will attempt to ingratiate itself with the South African Communist Party and the Congress of South African Trade Unions, two groups that are already chafing at the leadership of South African President Jacob Zuma.”
In an analysis on the geopolitics of SA, published last year in May, Stratfor said the country’s geopolitical imperatives were “to maintain a free flow of capital and labour within the country and in the southern African region in order to exploit the region’s vast mineral riches and to be able to project a security capability in southern Africa in order to prevent the emergence of a rival power.”
Pic: Angolan president Jose Eduardo dos Santos