Friday, May 13, 2011 at 5:54 AM
I am acutely mindful that my commentaries on the growing pains of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are taking on the specter of flogging a dead horse. This is why I am loath to write yet another one on the following regressive phenomenon that is now unfolding there:
African leaders once personified unbridled despotism. Now they’re personifying the metastasizing spectacle of leaders [plunging their countries into political violence by] refusing to give up power after losing free and fair elections; ergo, their oxymoronic designation – democratic despots.
(Africa’s democratic despots now include Gbagbo of Ivory Coast, The iPINIONS Journal, December 15, 2010)
This has played out recently in Zimbabwe, Kenya, and (as indicated) the Ivory Coast. And it’s now playing out in Uganda….
Far more troubling, however, are the equally regressive developments that have beset South Africa, the beacon of hope for the region, ever since Nelson Mandela retired as president. Most notable in this respect was Mandela’s successor, Thabo Mbeki, staking his entire presidency (and the lives of hundreds of thousands of South Africans) on the fatuous notion that HIV does not cause Aids.
But this was soon surpassed in its utter stupefaction by the election of the alleged rapist and fraudster Jacob Zuma to succeed Mbeki. I felt constrained to herald this development by warning that Zuma would do for (or to) South Africa what Mugabe has done to Zimbabwe….
But I’ve become distressingly aware that South Africa has a rather robust cadre of Internet trolls who are every bit as zealous in their defense of Zuma’s flawed character and venal policies as they were in defense of Mbeki’s discredited views on HIV/Aids. This is why I began citing the unimpeachable views of native South Africans to support my contentions.
Apropos of this, when I lamented the wayward path the country was veering towards two years ago, I cited the following national plea by none other than the Nobel Laureate for Peace, Archbishop Desmond Tutu:
They should please not choose someone of whom most of us would be ashamed. Our country deserves better. We’re very worried that this leader [Jacob Zuma] had relations with a woman who regarded him as a parent and, although he is very likeable, we have to ask ourselves: ‘What is happening in the ANC?’
(Hail Zuma … Big Dada, The iPINIONS Journal, April 27, 2009)
Alas, Tutu’s plea fell resoundingly on deaf ears. Consequently, what has happened to the ANC since then is that Zuma has transformed it from a party that championed democratic freedoms into one that enforces party loyalty – whether right or wrong. Even worse, it is deploying many of the same tactics of political intimidation and repression that the Apartheid regime deployed during its rule.
Put another way, instead of emulating Barack Obama of the United States, Zuma is emulating Vladimir Putin of Russia; thereby turning South Africa into a de facto police state where a few oligarchs thrive with his sufferance at the expense of the poor masses.
Of course, I knew it would be thus – as the following attests:
Zuma’s efforts to silence Zapiro [a critically acclaimed political cartoonist who revels in caricaturing Zuma's political shortcomings] – aided by the rabble-rousing trade unionists (COSATU) and unreformed communists (SACP) who have turned the ruling ANC from a governing coalition into a band of pillagers – should serve as a dire warning of what South Africa will become under his leadership.
(Zuma issues fatwa against cartoonist Zapiro, The iPINIONS Journal, December 22, 2008)
But, as I indicated earlier, don’t take my word for it. Instead, here is what no less a person than the Nobel Laureate for Literature, Nadine Gordimer, is saying about what Zuma and the ANC are doing to South Africa:
The original values of the ANC are being betrayed in many areas of our social life and our political life… I maintain the right to criticize my own party. I feel it’s a duty that we who are in the ANC must say what we think when the ANC does wrong….
(HARDtalk, BBC, May 10, 2011)
Hear, hear comrade!
And, lest Zuma’s defenders attempt to dismiss Gordimer’s lament as well, just bear in mind that only Mandela himself has greater moral authority than she to speak about the state of affairs in South Africa today. After all, it’s arguable that she did more with her writings and political activism to bring about the fall of Apartheid than any other black South African living today, including Jacob Zuma.
That said, some might argue that the 87-year-old Gordimer is waxing a little too idealistic in her dotage. And to support their contention they might cite her proselytizing interracial marriage as the best way for the country to deal with its lingering racial problems. But I submit that her prescription for racial healing and reconciliation is just as unassailable as her indictment of Zuma and the ANC.
God help South Africa….