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Is SA the new Zimbabwe?

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.

Like Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe cartoon thumbnail
South Africa the New Zimbabwe CartOOn!


  • Mike Trapido is a criminal attorney and publicist having also worked as an editor and journalist. He was born in Johannesburg and attended HA Jack and Highlands North High Schools. He married Robyn in 1984 (Mrs Traps, aka "the government") and has three sons (who all look suspiciously like her ex-boss). He was a counsellor on the JCCI for a year around 1992. His passions include Derby County, Blue Bulls, Orlando Pirates, Proteas and Springboks. He takes Valium in order to cope with Bafana Bafana's results. Practice Michael Trapido Attorney (civil and criminal) 011 022 7332 Facebook


  1. Richardm Richardm 28 April 2010

    Last night, the daughter of a friend of mine was pulled over by four Johannesburg police officers for no apparent reason. It was dark, she was coming home from visiting friends. One of the officers demanded 2000R and said if she didn’t give them the money they would “rape you white bitch”. I know these people well and there is no way they would lie about this.

    This one incident sums up so much of what is going on in SA today. Racism, sexism, thuggery, corruption by government “officials”. This is nothing new, everyone knows this. It happens again and again in SA. I told my friend to report this to the police, to the human rights commission, to SOME responsible body. She laughed and said its totally futile. It is daily events such as this that have made people lose hope. What a disgrace.

  2. Karin d Karin d 28 April 2010

    Rose, of course our leaders would shrink away. In a recent spat with neighbouring Trinidad, which are run by leaders elected by their ability to hand out favours – the Barbados leader phoned into a chatshow in Trinidad and gave the DJ the Trinidad leader’s cellph nr. He of course refused to answer the phone… But the Barbados leaders won the soul of the argument. Yes, the culture of inclusiveness has to be developed, but I’m not sure the pages of cyberspace are inclusive enough. Just recently I read that a radio debate here in SA, involving Zille and Mantashe had a young Afrikaner phone in, who cried over the phone over his notion that his country does not want him. It changed the tone of the debate. This is more of what we need. It may sound simplistic, but we need to talk to each and hear the voices of our people. The black masses are not a homogenous group but made up of many individuals who are trying to make ends meet, we need to hear each other’s stories and find a way forward together. We are letting policians control our stories.

  3. Mike Mike 28 April 2010

    But Traps, you voted for the ANC didn’t you?

  4. Una Una 28 April 2010

    The Creator

    Your points have been well put. I sometomes wonder why COSATU and SACP mislead the masses into thinking that there is a lot of money to go around. The secretary -general of SACP bought an expensive car instead of being a shining example considering the shrinking tax base. The problem in SA political opportunists are given an ear by the illiterate masses and I do not blame them. They do not understand how to put together the pieces of the puzzle let alone being faminliar with the pieces. What happened in the road to and in Polokwane is a good example of how dirty politicians thrive on the ignorance of the masses

  5. Policat Policat 28 April 2010

    I noticed with alarm that the prominent ANC leaders interviewed on SAFM during the Freedom Day Special continually referred to the need for “economic freedom” now that they have “political freedom” .
    The ANC is busy indoctrinating the masses to ready them for the complete takeover of the assets of this country and have learnt a valuable lesson from Mugabe in that, the international community will stand idly by and watch the catastrophe unfold. They are not interested in the welfare of the people but the size of their pockets.

  6. Rose Morrow Rose Morrow 28 April 2010

    I keep wondering why everyone is so obsessed with how Traps voted. It’s irrelevant in the context of this discussion and most other discussions on the blog. It’s one vote! Come guys, get over it – it’s old!

  7. Richardm Richardm 28 April 2010


    You said: “Truth of the matter is, Zimbabwe was not destroyed by the change in colour of land owership, rather it was changed by the drying up on finacial support and trade restrictions from the Europe, Australia, New Zealand and the Americas.”

    You have it exactly backwards. Financial support was withdrawn by the West from Zimbabwe PRECISELY because of the way in which Mugabe and his elites handled the land “reform”. Furthermore, your statements indicate you are a blatant racist. You are in the same league as TerriBlanche and all of the other retrogrades who still exist in this world. You have no shame of course because you are part of the .001% elites in Zim. Just another lieing fat cat spouting off “revolutionary” rhetoric while you steal your countrymen blind.

  8. Atlas Reader Atlas Reader 29 April 2010

    Richardm, there are only 30000 white Afrikaner farmers and 3000 of them have been murdered so far. That’s one in ten — definitely worthy of being called genocide. Proportionally, it’s just as bad as Hitler’s extermination of Jews. And it’s still ongoing.

  9. economic slave economic slave 29 April 2010

    What a clamour you have raised Traps… Hysteria perhaps.
    Here are a few points:
    Firstly the Scottish newspaper that published this fanciful tale was diverting attention from the question “IS BRITAIN ANOTHER GREECE’ Both are inherently bankrupt and about to slide into a depression that could make the 1930’s look like merry times… Or maybe they wont.

    Both places are ‘running on empty’.

    Secondly. It is well known media complaint that most ‘lotto’ winners end up bankrupt after a fairly short period…

    The ANC and ZanuPF ‘won’ the Lotto in their respective jurisdictions…

    Thirdly: the political theorist Hannah Arendt, writing 60 years ago about the boers, said [in pre-politically correct language]- “In the natives [sic] the Boers discovered the only ‘raw material’ which Afrika provided in abundance and they used them …. for the mere essentials of human existance”. … “…The Boers lived on their slaves exactly the way natives[sic] had lived on an unprepared and unchanged nature…”

    In essence what the ANC is doing and what ZANU PF have done is to continue with an age old practice. The boers response to the discovery of gold was to trek into the interior… Later they came to regret their intemperence and fed off the new fat created from gold…What is so different about the ANC’s policy of feeding at the trough until it is empty.Eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.

    The immanent bankruptcy of a debt fuelled world indicateds they may have a point.

  10. Boetie Boetie 29 April 2010

    Sadly, most of my Zim friends (albeit mostly white) warn that the reminding of the “oppressors”, “elite”, Imperialists” “revolutionaries” all point to the end being near.

    The mere fact that you wrote this blog, contemplating the worst case scenario, is a sign that not all is well. Further, I believe that those that say SA is not Zim because SA has a bigger middle class, better infrastructure yada yada must realise that logic is not always found in African history. Someone please prove me wrong on that, please. I dare you all.

    With that in mind, don’t evaluate the situation from a western point of view. There’s more to fight over in SA and everyone wants his slice of the cake. When the populace realise that their elected leaders are in it for the money, bad things will happen.

    Also true to African history, the populace will be constantly reminded that the reason they have no food or LCD Tv’s is becauseof the white imperialists…I am afraid if you look at the ANC (including our fine members of cabinet) reminding the populace of economic freedom needs to be achieved.

    “The grabbing hands, grab all they can. All for themselves, after all. The grabbing hands grab all they can, everything counts in large amounts…”

    There’s a song in there somewhere.

  11. Olga Olga 29 April 2010

    Great article Michael! The parallels are scary..

  12. Darl Darl 29 April 2010


    The fury in your response to my comment(s)shows I must have really touched one of your raw nerves. First, you try to refute the reasons that I advanced for the socio-economic decline in Zimbabwe, and then go onto repeat exactly what I said! Either English is not your first language or you are blatantly incapable of debating. Funny how you are the first person to call me racist; I guess it takes a racist to fish out another. Fortunately, Zimbabwe became independent when I was a little boy, so I do not have first-hand experience or knowledge of our racists work and/or behave, but you seem to have just given me some insight.

    Now that I think you’re sober, please go back to my comment, and compare it with yours. You’ll be surprised that you didn’t say anything different from what I had said. Wish you all the luck mate.

  13. Dave (Zim) Dave (Zim) 30 April 2010

    Zimbabwe changed for the worse when Mugabe’s power base was threatened by the formation of the MDC with a subtsantial following. From that moment Zimbabwe started to go down the tubes. Mugabe visited Cuba in 1999 and was told that if he wanted to secure his political future he should (a) get rid of white people and (b) turn the black people into peasants. He has largely succeeded but where he has missed out is that there are too many black people still here who are well educated and want jobs (not farms or businesses)and have seen the destruction wrought by greed. Zimbabwe will change – eventually. SA beware of threatening Zuma’s power base, which you are actually doing right now. But what else can you do? Tough choice!

  14. Gilly Gilly 16 September 2011

    Well Said RichardM, and SA’s path is going exactly the same way.

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