Many South Africans have been asking this question for a number of years now but when the Scottish Sunday Herald starts making it a featured item then the time has come for us to put the question to ourselves.
The article is by Fred Bridgland, a British writer and biographer who first revealed South Africa’s secret invasion of Angola during their civil war and revealed human-rights abuses committed by Unita rebels under the command of Jonas Savimbi.
Whether you are a fan of his work or not, the fact is that he has been around this neck of the wood for a long while now and is no stranger to African politics.
He presents his argument in the form of submissions made by South African commentators including the following :
Barney Mthombothi : “Hardly a decade from now, Zimbabwe will be our destination, our reality,” (Financial Mail)
“Mr Mthombothi, one of his country’s finest journalists, was commenting in the course of an analysis on the dire situation in neighbouring Zimbabwe where, he said, life had become ‘hell on earth’. The tragedy is not simply that Mugabe has destroyed his own country, Mr Mthombothi went on to say. ‘He has exported the cancer. He’s poisoned the well. He’s contaminated the politics of the region, especially South Africa. Our politicians have learnt from the master’s knee — the buck-passing, blame everything on imperialists and apartheid; the reckless and incendiary language; the refusal to see reason or deal with reality even as it stares you in the face. Our people are increasingly suspicious or even frightened by the actions of their own government. It can no longer be trusted to do what’s right by them’.”
Allister Sparks : the veteran anti-apartheid warhorse journalist who espoused the ANC during its darkest days when banned by whites-only rulers, said the extent to which the movement has abandoned its own core principles is astonishing. The rot is spreading ever deeper into the very soul of the ANC, said Mr Sparks, winner of many international awards for his reporting, in his latest column in the daily Business Day
“Sparks highlighted two core principles on which the ANC has gone backwards and which had carried it through all the long decades of its liberation struggle, through the tough constitutional negotiating process of the early 1990s under Nelson Mandela and into the dawn of the new South Africa — ‘the principle of non-racialism and the principle of clean, honest government that would deliver a better life for all’.”
Sparks added: “We have become a corrupt country. The whole body politic is riddled with it. We have reached a kind of corruption gridlock. When so many people in high places have the dirt on each other, no one dares blow a whistle. When the president of the country (Jacob Zuma) has managed to get off the hook on a major corruption case (charges relating to bribes associated with the country’s multibillion-dollar arms deal with Britain and other European Union countries), how can he crack down on corruption anywhere else in his administration? When he rewards the acting prosecuting chief who got him off the hook with a judgeship, how can he expect to have a clean civil service all the way down to municipal level?”
Sparks said he did not believe Mr Malema’s insistence on singing “kill the boer” had any direct role in Terre’Blanche’s murder. “But,” he added, “the fact the two coincided has inflamed racial passions. Thanks to Malema, the faded and farcical Terre’Blanche’s racist cause has found a new lease of life in his death”.
William Gumede author of Thabo Mbeki and the Battle for the Soul of the ANC ; currently a senior fellow at St Antony’s College, Oxford.
“ANC leaders are now competing viciously among themselves for access to state resources, said William Gumede, in a lecture last week in Pretoria. Many in the ANC had become part of the ‘bling culture’ — getting rich quickly, using short cuts. Unfortunately, while this new bling lifestyle has become the new standard for achievement, a sign that one has made it, no new factories are being built and mass poverty is increasing. What cannot be doubted any more is that our worse fears have come true: the ANC has lost its soul.”
Peter Bruce editor of Business Day : “What Malema does to this country is tantamount to treason. He is destructive and careless. He represents, in every conceivable way, what failure would look like for this country. If the ANC leadership does not get rid of him now, it will never have the opportunity again. And the damage he does will only get worse.”
Mondli Makhanya, editor in chief at Avusa : “There was a guy who lived in a country in Europe in the 1920s and 1930s and into the 1940s. That particular person was allowed to rise because people didn’t take him seriously.”
Professor Pierre de Vos , appointed as the Claude Leon Foundation Chair in Constitutional Governance at the University of Cape Town in July 2009.
“In conclusion, it seems to me the manner in which the ANC handles the disciplinary charges against Malema will help us better to understand who stands where in the Byzantine power struggles inside the ANC. Just because the process appears to be quasi-judicial does not mean that it will not have a strong political component (and political ramifications). Is it too melodramatic to claim that the future trajectory of Jacob Zuma’s presidency will be revealed as the disciplinary process against Julius Malema unfolds?”
This last item being our own addition.
South Africa’s Zanufication
Of concern to many South Africans has been inter alia the following :
* The ANC’s close ties to Zanu-PF.
* The ongoing support and allowances made by South Africa in respect of Mugabe including lifting sanctions and former president Mbeki’s intervention at the UN when action was finally being contemplated.
* ANCYL president Malema and other ANC leaders praising Mugabe and calling for nationalisation of our primary industry, mining — theirs was farming — which destroyed their economy.
* The fact that Malema is being sent to learn from Mugabe and Chavez whose economic policies are backwards to say the least rather than countries like Botswana and Singapore who have prospered.
* The fact that even if Malema is suspended the decision to go to those countries to learn did not come from Malema but the ANCYL and ANC.
* The fact that hardly a year after choosing a government factions within the ANC are already at each other’s throats in respect of the next elective conferences meaning internal issues among the elite take precedence over running the country. In this regard how do you sack Malema who is totally undermining the government and economy when you have 2012 in mind? This means the concerns of the elite — exactly like Zimbabwe — are more important than running the country.
* The problem of selecting cronies who helped survive the last putsch being put into key areas such as fighting crime and the NIA ahead of those considered best qualified. In Zimbabwe all security and police forces owe their allegiance — in reality — to Mugabe not Zimbabwe. If it were otherwise he’d be in retirement.
This list is endless and causes grave concern to South Africans who do not want to be the next Zimbabwe.
The million-dollar question
Many South Africans are adamant that this country will never be another Zimbabwe.
On this platform — and in the Mail & Guardian where this will appear as well — I would like to hear the basis upon which people rely to make this claim.
This is not said flippantly but rather to start the ball rolling in keeping us uniquely South African rather than — heaven forbid — the poor man’s Zimbabwe (is that physically possible?)
Most important for me is that we remind the ANC that the reason why they fight elections is to become the government of South Africa and not the leading faction in the ANC. If that’s all they want to be they can run their own elections every year but let someone else govern the country.
Act like a government of the people and find a way to ensure that electioneering within the party is restricted somehow to the time of elections. That way we may avoid the elite controlling the government who pass on their instructions to the country.