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?