Bryan Mukandi
Bryan Mukandi

Finding our inner Jonathan Moyo

One of the big mysteries of Zimbabwean politics is the metamorphosis of Prof Jonathan Moyo. A former critic of Robert Mugabe and his party, Moyo suddenly switched allegiances and helped keep Mugabe and Zanu-PF in power. Although there has been plenty of speculation on the subject, why Moyo made the switch is still not known to the public.

Like most people I have no special insight into the personal world of Moyo. That said, the “he did it for the money” theory never sat too well with me. Maybe it’s just naivety but it seems to me that someone of Moyo’s calibre could find ways of earning a good bit of money without resorting to prostitution — and that with a bitter enemy. Having spent a few years in another country and with the benefit of the different perspective that distance brings I’ve arrived at my own theory. One that I think is as important for South Africans as it is for people who have tried to understand the Moyo phenomenon.

Post-colonial states often end up taking one of two cursed roads. The first leads the nation to the depressing, false belief that things cannot get any better than they already are. The apathy that results from that kind of thinking goes some way to explaining the rut that countries like Malawi and Mozambique were stuck in at one stage. The second path leads to a manic striving towards an illusion. This far more dangerous path has led Zimbabwe to its ruin and South Africa seems determined to make the same mistakes.

The illusion is the picture many of us have of what a functioning democracy should look like. We are bombarded daily by so many messages — in the form of advertisements, music, film and television — that lead us to a false picture of the workings of the model society. Worse, we then tend to assume that this model society exists in places like the US and in Europe. When those images are compared to our daily reality, the inevitable results are frustration, disillusionment and contempt. Sometimes perspective is then lost and there is an unhealthy focus on what is wrong and an unhealthy desire to get to a destination that doesn’t exist, all the while ignoring the positive things around us.

I think one day Moyo realised that there was only one country in the world that he could truly call home. Given that fact, I think he decided that it made more sense to work towards building that country up as opposed to destroying it in the name of some utopian vision. He may also have been motivated by other things, including the prospect of making money and accumulating power, but I’m convinced that his primary motivation was the desire to build up his country. The improvements that he has managed to bring about in his constituency go some way towards validating my theory, even if it is all based on speculation.

Right or wrong, my Moyo theory has important implications for South Africa. Yes, as Zapiro will never let us forget, there was “Showergate”. And yes, Jacob Zuma will always have the cloud of financial impropriety hanging over him. Like most people, I have my fair share of criticism of President Zuma. But I don’t think Zuma gets the credit he deserves. Nearly two-thirds of the country decided that they wanted him to lead them. Surely it should be the job of all to work with him as opposed to against him. And I don’t mean that Cope and the DA should suddenly stop being the opposition and join the government and Zuma be declared infallible. But a better balance needs to be reached.

Honestly, I don’t think South Africa appreciates the miracle that is South Africa. An insatiable desire for more and better and faster has led not just to a lack of appreciation of what currently is, but also to more bickering and less engagement.

If Zuma fails, South Africa, and Africa as a whole will fail along with him. Given that fact isn’t the sensible thing, even for those who don’t like him, to work towards his success?

  • Tapiwa Gomo

    I still dont find clariy on Moyo in this article. And was it about Moyo anyway or some theory which is still not clear in your piece. Sorry but I was expecting more from you Dr.

  • John

    “An insatiable desire for more and better and faster has led not just to a lack of appreciation of what currently is, but also to more bickering and less engagement.”

    Amen to that.

  • Themba

    Who are the “most peopl” that you have a fair share of criyicism for Zuma with? I am part of the nearly 66% who chose him without reservation, in fact with excitement. If u dont like that, perhaps, like your newfound friends here fom UK/wherever, u should also consider going back home.

  • geejay

    Interesting article but lets face it Moyo is no yard stick for sane decisions.
    The only thing that has helped SA attain some semblance of dignity and progress has been its constitution which supports robust criticism of any party through freedom of speech and association (amongst others). This aspect was band in Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Angola. As for Mozambique and Angola they didn’t miraculously turn a corner, they got rid of their communistic based doctrines and as a result have started on the long road to recover from that disastrous African populace policy. Zimbabwe was doing quite well, until they decided to adopt the failures that they so loved in neighbouring Mozambique. Zimbabwean citizens are so devastated that the majority of their working population now seek employment externally. Robust and open debate as seen in the run up to the last election is the miracle of South Africa and quite frankly unless Africa can clone this type of electioneering adopted and guaranteed through democratic based constitutions and thought process I see no hope for their countries who are for the most part tribal based nationalists who will vote for a party based on their ethnicity not their conscience. Lastly Zuma will have very little to do with the success of South Africa, that portfolio has been given to Trevor Manuel with the explicit aim of controlling the SACP’s influence and hopefully to temper their misplaced soviet aspirations.

  • Sipho

    I share your sentiments Bryan, but we have a different challenge here in South Africa,a section of our community doesn’t regard South Africa ruled by the African majority as their home. They cite problems like crime which affect most citizens of the country as their basis to undermine the state. My fear is that those in power might find in the long run,that democracy is too blunt an instrument to deal with the intra and extra judicial activities of these groupings. I don’t believe Mugabe woke up in one day and decided to antagonise a section of his population and those perceived to support that section. I believe it was an accumulation of incidences of undermining that made him snap.
    I personally begin to have doubts about the effectiveness of democracy in dealing with societal conflicts.

  • Bryan Mukandi

    Tapiwa – Sorry to disappoint.

    John – Thanks.

    Themba – I think most people have some reservations about all politicians. Although I’ve been criticised by people for Zuma and against him, I think I’ve been fair to the president.

    Geejay – I disagree with you on two points. First of all, Zimbabwe had a decent constitution and an independent jurisdiction at one stage. South Africa is an example to the rest of the continent. That said, it is also a young country that is not necessarily preordained to avoid all the mistakes made on some of the failures on the continent. Those mistakes should be noted and the appropriate lessons learnt. To ignore them under the false belief that the country is somehow ‘different’ would be to make the same mistake as Zimbabwe not too long ago.

    As for the suggestion that ‘Zuma will have very little to do with the success of South Africa’, I couldn’t disagree more strongly. Yes, South Africa has important checks and balances. No single person can treat the country like their personal property. But we shouldn’t forget the lessons of the Bush presidency. A leader can still do enormous harm with all the checks and balances in the world. In the words of John Maxwell, everything rises and falls on leadership. Fortunately, I think Zuma will make a good one.

  • Bryan Mukandi

    Sipho – I share your frustration. Every section of society needs to realise that if the nation sink, all will go down with it. I’m not sure how you get that message across to people who are delusional or chose to live in the past. But undemocratic means will only serve to strengthen their arguments.

  • Lyndall Beddy

    Would 2/3rd of the country have voted for Zuma if he had not been the ANC candidate, but candidate for the ID for instance?

    Too much credit is given to “voting for Zuma”. They voted for the ANC.

  • Geejay

    Bryan I agree with your sentiment specifically surrounding Zimbabwe, but populace policies aren’t necessarily the best ones for the country, Zimbabwe’s agrarian reforms are but one example and for that matter the Republicans administration total dismantling of their financial checks and balances is another (Started with Reagan). But at the end of the day we cannot simply hold the leaders of the time solely accountable, votes are votes and when all is said and done the people of Zimbabwe voted and kept Bob in power. They are responsible for their mess as much as Bob is, same with the USA, I find their blame of all things bad on Bush a total cop out from a voting public who gave him a second term. But this is where the comparative analogy (as light as it is) between Zimbabwe and USA ends, the point is Bush and the Republicans have gone (maybe not to return for a long, long time) and yet there sitting in the front row of the inauguration of a legally voted in president sits Africa’s greatest modern failure, his excellency the President of Zimbabwe Robert Gabriel Mugabe, whilst his wife raids the foreign exchange coffers of the bankrupt Zimbabwean (No) reserve bank. And Moyo supports that?

  • Bryan Mukandi

    I both agree and disagree, Lyndall. The political process weeds out an enormous amount of talent. And yes, in the end, the choice is limited to the representatives of the major political parties. But had Zuma left the ANC and started his own party, I think he would have had a shot at the presidency. If not, he would have become the leader of the largest opposition party in South Africa.

    Something else to consider, he was incredibly popular within his own party. With all the things working against him, the fact that he was the ANC candidate I think also speaks volumes about his popularity.

  • Steven

    Social cohesion is a far more important element to cultivate in a developing country, than what the media propagated before the elections.

    Fact, Zuma has dedicated his life to the liberation and betterment of the majorities lot in SA. If Zuma was American he would be seen as a heroe, there would be movies, books & Oprah interviews.

    Corruption allegations aside, his actions are NO different to ANY politician from any first world country. Has anyone seen the headlines from the BBC news website in the past 12 months. I think you will find corruption is pretty rife no matter what your skin colour or continent of birth.

  • Bryan Mukandi

    Geejay – I agree that the people of Zimbabwe have a lot to account for in terms of the country’s current state. But we mustn’t forget that democracy, like most things, is a learnt process. Both the leaders and the electorate had a lot to learn in Zim, as they do in SA. And even though it doesn’t look like it, Zim the basket case is a lot further on than stable prosperous Zim was in many ways and the hardship that has been endured has been part of a painful learning process. Mugabe won’t always be the leader, but I think people like Moyo stick around because they realise that despite the actions of the leader, or his wife, they can influence and shape policy for the better.

    Steven – I agree. I wrote something similar here:

    I’ve been criticised by supporters and critics of Zuma alike. Hopefully that means I’m being objective. Zuma’s alleged crimes are nothing compared to those of Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi. The media love to play on his perceived flaws. You can’t win. Mbeki was too eurocentric. Zuma is an illiterate goat herder. Only Mandela was good.

    I think a lot of the anti-Zuma commentary is ridiculous. And you’re right. Were SA like the US, the feel-goodmovie ‘Zuma’ would be in production by now.

  • Mark Robertson

    I agree – people need to give Zuma the benefit of the doubt, and support him to support SA. You can respect the office and the opinion of the voters even if Zuma is not your first choice. He is a reconciler and is honest and lacking in malice. He also is ‘comfortable in his own skin’ and is as a happy result not a racist (I hope I can make such a broad, unsupported statement but I feel this is justified based on his words and deeds). He has many good people to choose from. Let us all use the opportunity he has given us to ‘work together’ which is frankly the most important task we have – both the ‘work’ part and the ‘together’ part.