The Rawlings 19Yrs Legacy: Of Killing Local Industry & Forcing Foreign Goods on Ghanaians
By: Adams Alormasor
In terms of history and politics, a legacy is a remarkable contribution of what is worth it or what is worthless that is handed down from one period of time to another period of time. A historical legacy can be counted in later times as a good thing or a bad thing.
In the case of former President Rawlings, his legacy of leadership in Ghana for nearly two decades can be said to be a legacy of killing off local businesses and forcing Ghanaians to consume foreign products. He did this by trying to create a family heritage – coveting state power and properties that he intended to be inherited. His entire legacy is a story of greed, lack of economic and political vision, personal profit and his family’s sense of entitlement to public goods at no cost.
Rawlings came to power first through a popular uprising in 1979 as a military man. He led the AFRC junta and handed over power to Hilla Liman after a few months in office. On December 31 1981, Rawlings led a coup d’état which overthrew the democratically elected government of Dr. Hilla Liman. He ran a military dictatorship under the PNDC government between 1981 -1992 before putting off his military uniform to run a pseudo democratic government for another eight years until the year 2000.
Before grudgingly handing over power in the year 2000, Rawlings attempted to perpetuate himself in power for much longer but his sinister moves were resisted by members of his own government. In recent comments, Rawlings confessingly said, ‘”we (NDC) could have stayed on for another eight or sixteen just to work to consolidate situations very well and proper.”
“I made a suggestion to my colleagues that considering that people are becoming saturated with us or with me, let me let Justice Annan take over and I can be his number 2 or step aside. He can serve four years or eight years then I could come back, and that will be sixteen years of consolidation because what we had noticed was that these characters will destroy anything and everything so let’s not allow it.”
He continued, “Some of my comrades said no and that, it’s never been done before. Is that not what Putin did recently? We would have been the first to do it here. That would have helped to consolidate because quite often we make reference to institutions but the institutions rely on the human factor and if those human entities are not bold enough to defy that which is wrong, that institution will be weak; am I lying?” he asked.
Today, We can say that Rawlings wanted several more years to consolidate the killing of local industry and the forcing of foreign goods on Ghanaians,and therefore the destruction of the local industry.
During these nineteen (19) odd years, Mr. Rawlings and his wife Nana Konadu Agyeman – Rawlings governed with terror using what he himself describes as the ‘shock effect’ and the ‘fear factor’.
He did this through several extra judicial killings, imprisonment, torture and seizure of private properties and enterprises. Also killed or imprisoned anyone that he considered ‘enemy of the revolution’.
This ‘reign of terror’ targeted at the local industry forced into exile, detention, and the ultimately the grave, many wealthy business men and women whose businesses formed the industrial base of Ghana in the 70s and 80s and appeared to be Rawlings’ main target, for he labeled them all as ‘enemies of the revolution’.
The list of Ghanaian businesses which were either destroyed or taken over by the government of the AFRC/PNDC/NDC under Rawlings and later given away to members of the Rawlings regime/family or to foreign interests for a pittance is endless.
A notable example of a local industrialist whose industry was destroyed was Mr. Joshua Kwabena Siaw, a native of Kwahu Akwasiho in the Eastern region. Originally a teacher, the man gradually began building a business in the Brewing industry. In 1973 during Col. I.K Acheampong’s regime, he opened the largest brewery in West Africa at Achimota, a suburb of Accra. The brewery produced Tata beer for the local market and exported Maltex, then a very popular soft drink, to Togo, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Senegal, and The Gambia.
Unfortunately under a so-called ‘house-cleaning’ exercise under Rawlings targeting local businessmen identified as collaborators of Kalabule, (a system of price hikes), Rawlings arrested and confiscated the brewery of Mr Siaw with the lame excuse that he had been hoarding sugar at a time the commodity was scarce on the open market. A trumped-up charge of tax evasion was later added and he was thrown into jail.
Mr. Siaw later managed to escape and fled into exile in Liberia on transit to South London, where he died in obscurity in1986. His company Tata Brewery was sold by Rawlings to foreigners. It is now in the hands of foreign owners – Guinness Ghana Breweries Limited.
Since his death, Mr. Siaw’s children have been engaged in protracted legal tussle to retrieve his properties, including the brewery, but justice has eluded them ever since.
Another example is Mr. Benjamin Amponsah Mensah popularly known as BA Mensah who had established many local business initiatives. For example the International Tobacco Company Limited at North Kaneshie in Accra manufactured Rothmans King Size cigarettes. His main competitors were American-owned Pioneer Tobacco Company, producers of 555 cigarettes.
After the in June 4 1979 military takeovers led by J.J Rawlings, Mr. B.A. Mensah was accused of not paying taxes as an excuse to seize all his assets, including the International Tobacco Company Limited. International Tabacco Company limited was among several indigenous Ghanaian companies aided by the Acheampong regime with a five- year tax holiday to encourage the growth of the local industry and to enable them compete with foreign companies effectively.
Unfortunately, many of these local businesses which were helped by Col Acheampong to grow ended up dead in the hands of Rawlings and alongside Col. I.K Acheampong himself who was shot by Rawlings after taking over power.
We can also remind ourselves of Mr. Yaw Boakye, another business tycoon who was a victim of the Rawlings legacy. At a time when the local manufacturing of mattresses was unknown, he set up a factory to produce deluxe mattresses.
Mr. Yaw Boakye also established a state of the art private hospital at Cantonment in Accra. When Rawlings took over power, Mr. Boakye was one of the first victims of his brutalities. His mattress factory was seized, and the hospital confiscated to the state.
The Police Hospital in Accra today, was originally Mr. Yaw Boakye’s private hospital. The property was seized and handed over to the Ghana Police to operate as a Centre for medical care of senior police officers.
Those above fifty years will remember a popular car assembly plant called Kowus Motors. It was established by late Kofi Owusu, who acquired R.T. Briscoe when they were sent packing, and operated a wholly Ghanaian-owned assembly plant. Like many successful Ghanaian businesses, Kowus Motors bacame victim of the AFRC and PNDC aversion to successful native initiatives.
Vacuum Salt Products Limited (VSPL), was confiscated from the late S.C. Appenteng in 1992, under the pseudo democratic rule of Rawlings and co.
The bitter truth is that Jerry John Rawlings and his regime did such irreparable damage to the local manufacturing industry that it would take more than mere speeches to get Ghanaian men and women to commit their resource and know-how into manufacturing goods for local consumption especially since they cannot compete with foreign capital bringing already finished goods into Ghana. No wonder, shopping malls have taken over manufacturing industry in Ghana.
If there will always be pressure on the cedi to fall, it is due to our forced love for foreign goods by Rawlings AFRC/PNDC brutal policies which encouraged the selling of imported items, rather than manufacturing them at home. If there are no local goods on the Ghanaian market today, it was Rawlings and his AFRC/PNDC/NDC who once cleared the local market of Made in Ghana goods.
Interestingly, by the time Rawlings and his PNDC/NDC were forced by the IMF and the World Bank to introduce economic reforms to recover the sinking Ghanaian economy of the 80s, there were a few local business men and women who were capable of taking advantage of the divestiture implementation program under the economic Reform Programs of the IMF and World Bank.
At this point, Rawlings and his cronies then began to loot and share among themselves most of the local business which were either established and ran by the state or seized from private citizens by the state under the guise of a so-called divestiture implementation committee (DIC).
Never known for running any business throughout her life, Nana Konadu Agyeman –Rawlings, wife of Jerry John Rawlings used Caridem Corporation, to acquire several public enterprises, including the GIHOC Cannery, GNTC Bakeries, GIHOC Brick and Tile, GNTC Supermarket, Nsawam cannery and the former State Transport Corporation which she run down very badly. Mrs. Rawlings also began running a number of gas stations and supermarkets in Accra and other cities. She also allegedly bought shares in several chains of hotels, including Accra’s La Palm Pleasure Beach Hotel and other hotels in other cities in Africa.
Many of these state owned enterprises acquired by wife of Rawlings were never paid for, and in some instances, very little was realized by the state from the sale. It has been suggested that these appropriations of state properties served as retirement packages for Mr. and Mrs. Rawlings who indeed could not account for the proceeds of the economic divestiture program that saw the sale of several hundreds of state enterprises to private sector players.
According to Kojo Appiah-Kubi, a Ghanaian economic historian, 909.617 billion old cedis was realized from the Divestiture program. He also noted in his book that the “the privatization of AGC (Ashanti Goldfields Corporation) alone produced [fetched Ghana] about USD $454 million” (Appiah-Kubi 2001, p.212).
Up until today, nobody in the Rawlings regime can tell Ghanaians how the US$454 million from the sale of AGC or the entire 909.617 billion cedis was squandered. What is clear is that Most Ghanaians who were old enough at the time had cause to worry about where the money ended up.
In 2001 a study by three scholars including Ghana’s Professor Gyimah-Boadi to ascertain the success of the P/NDC economic policies including the privatization of State Owned Enterprises and how the proceeds were utilized, found that: “only 7 per cent [of Ghanaians] were some how satisfied” while “over half of all Ghanaians (53 per cent) were dissatisfied” (Bratton/Lewis/Gyimah-Boadi 200, p. 248).
In a word, Jerry John Rawlings and his family and cronies in the AFRC/PNDC/NDC first totally killed off genuine local Ghanaian industries and enterprises by confiscating and turning them into state enterprises only to turn around and sell them/share them off to themselves and other foreign friends and failed to account to the people of Ghana.
This is the only truly enduring legacy of nineteen (19) years of Rawlings AFRC/PNDC/NDC government. All of Ghana’s economic problems today take its roots from this bad legacy which handed over every profitable business in Ghana to foreigners at the expense of the local economy and industry.
That makes Rawlings the most wanted economic criminal of Ghana. cunningly, he sneaked indemnity clauses into the 1992 constitution on the blindside of Ghanaians to give himself immunity from criminal prosecution. But Karma will definately catch up with him, his wife and family.
Next Time former President Rawlings lights the June 4th flame and make any of his sanctimonious statements about integrity, probity and accountability, tell him to shut up and come down from his pretentious moral high ground!
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