The Sunday Mail
There is a growing narrative on social media that South Africa is Africa’s “only real economy”.
It is an agenda no doubt driven by President Mugabe’s statement some weeks ago to the effect that Zimbabwe’s economic structure is only bettered by that of South Africa on the continent. We have already made our position on that matter clear and there is no need to get into that issue again here.
What is of immediate interest is South Africa itself. Many have read the reports of how the opposition in that country is trying to use the courts to control how President Jacob Zuma appoints his executive team.
Many will have seen the images of Mr Julius Malema grandstanding before a captive media that a few short years ago considered him the devil’s right-hand man. Those are South Africa’s problems for South Africa to deal with. But that does not stop one from observing with a mixture of wonder and pain how Africa’s “only real economy” remains as schizophrenic as only a Rainbow Nation can be. The schizophrenia is evident when one stands atop the Michael Angelo in Sandton — described in laudatory terms as “Africa’s richest square mile” — and gazes into the distance at the slums of Alexandra.
The schizophrenia is apparent in the naïve independence myth of Tshwane and the ugly post-independence reality of Pretoria. Some in South Africa see the schizophrenic economic and social structure.
Black Management Forum president Mr Mthunzi Mncane says “Yes the situation makes us angry although we have never said that, we are polite”.
He goes on, “For example, the ANC is now talking about radical economic transformation, and nobody knows what that means. Transformation in itself is radical.”
The problem, in his view, is with the ruling party’s approach to national issues. The bigwigs, he notes, can “meet for the entire weekend and worry only about who will become their next leader”.
If they are not arguing about who will be their next leader, they will be scheming about how to manoeuvre so that their buddies can benefit from “cadre deployment”.
Cadre deployment is the system of placing party stalwarts in key positions at state-owned enterprises and parastatals.
The logic is that these people, working on the concept of the party leading the state, will infuse the right ideology into the way these important economic organisations go about their business. But Mr Mncane says if cadre deployment was working, “we would have the best people running state-owned entities at both managerial and board level”.
His final lament is that “we cannot be a country in transformation forever”.
There is only a slither of river between South Africa and Zimbabwe. Our schizophrenia may not be as pronounced as South Africa’s, but it is there and it needs treatment. Our schizophrenia is seen in the difference between the words and actions of some within our national leadership.
We speak empowerment and patriotism to hungry villagers before rushing back to Harare in top-of-the-range SUVs. We do not see the split personality of our economy when we mouth lofty platitudes to rural-folk while sipping mineral water from a bottle because we do not trust the water these people drink on a daily basis.
If you remove “ANC” from Mr Mncane’s statement and replace it with “Zanu-PF”, the statement remains true and accurate.
Maybe our ruling party has found it all too easy to remain in office, swatting away the token challenge of the opposition without too much fuss. The MDCs in their various forms and guises gave Zanu-PF an easy victory in 2013 and they look set to deliver that gift again in 2018. Perhaps this makes Zanu-PF complacent, confident that another easy victory is in the offing and hence there is no need to expend itself on the kind of “radical transformation” that will deliver clean water and healthcare to rural areas, and ensure people do not have to sleep in bank queues to get US$50. The easy victories allow some in the ruling party to tell the people lies, to assure them of jobs and empowerment that they will not work to deliver.
But Amilcar Cabral taught us better.
Consider his exhortations and counsel in that famous 1965 party directive, as published by Basil Davidson in “The Liberation of Guiné, aspects of an African revolution” (1969).
“Always bear in mind that the people are not fighting for ideas, for the things in anyone’s head. They are fighting to win material benefits, to live better and in peace, to see their lives go forward, to guarantee the future of their children …
“If ten men go to a rice field and do the day’s work of eight, there’s no reason to be satisfied. It’s the same in battle. Ten men fight like eight; that’s not enough … One can always do more …
“Demand from responsible party members that they dedicate themselves seriously to study, that they interest themselves in the things and problems of our daily life and struggle in their fundamental and essential aspect, and not simply in their appearance.
“Learn from life, learn from our people, learn from books, learn from the experience of others. Never stop learning.
“Responsible members must take life seriously, conscious of their responsibilities, thoughtful about carrying them out, and with a comradeship based on work and duty done. Nothing of this is incompatible with the joy of living, or with love for life and its amusements, or with confidence in the future and in our work …
“Every responsible member must have the courage of his responsibilities, exacting from others a proper respect for his work and properly respecting the work of others.
“Hide nothing from the masses of our people. Tell no lies. Expose lies whenever they are told. Mask no difficulties, mistakes and failures. Claim no easy victories.”