Latest News Editor's Choice

Opinion / Columnist

Mandela vs Mugabe: A legacy of ashes

16 Sep 2017 at 12:10hrs | Views
Ever get that feeling that all the lifelong plans you have ever had will burn into red-hot disappointment one day? If you live in Johannesburg for long enough, you will hear stories about men and women from Zimbabwe who have made it here. Stay in Midrand for long enough and you could see Peter Ndlovu filling up at an Engen garage on any given day. And you might see Oscar 'Oskido' Mdlongwa and Esrom Nyandoro working out on the treadmills at the local Virgin Active gym now and again. If you reside in Pretoria there is a good chance that you have met taxi drivers, technicians, boilermakers, students, teachers, geologists, doctors and engineers who come from Zimbabwe. You will also see personalities like Beast Mtawarira and Tonderai Chavhanga, sportsmen who have excelled in local rugby, and done well for the Springboks.

Travel a bit and you will discover that although large communities of Zimbabweans live in Hillbrow and Germiston, the diaspora is well represented in all localities in Egoli. Spend a little time purchasing low priced commodities in Johannesburg and you will appreciate that Zimbabwean bus operators have the largest bus terminus for foreign transport companies and the place feels like a small version of Mbare Musika Bus Terminal. And whether you meet people who moved to Johannesburg last week or last year or twenty years ago, the various masses who reside here, migrated out of fear that economic scarceness in Zimbabwe could put their lifetime dreams on hold.

See, with a little luck, life here can be a fantastic and highly rewarding experience. Egoli is truly a place laden with tremendous possibilities for enthusiastic self-starters. Yet life as an immigrant here can also be tough on broken families and distant friends and lonely relatives. Life can be a painful affair when one lives in a foreign land. Johannesburg has become the ultimate representation of the rich realisation of the African dream and the quintessential representation of the chronic and communal shortcomings of African leadership.

Africa is filled with hotly disputed electoral and economic spaces. From Cape to Cairo, the heat-filled landscapes and wildernesses and plush jungles house the nonstop struggles of deprived civilisations, while the rich pickings of the African continent feed the selfish paranoia and unembarrassed profligacy of an immensely decadent, entitled and cosseted political and economic elite. A flawless and obstinate summation of the recurrent failings of African leaders can be seen in how Johannesburg has mutated into a continental melting pot.

An African dream went up in flames when Ernesto Alfabeto Nhamuave met his painful death during xenophobic violence in Johannesburg. He cried and struggled in pain and agony while a ferocious expression of flamed abhorrence charred him to death. People stood still and watched him burn to death. Nobody, bar a few police officers, made an effort to help the Mozambican national as he lived his final moments in the blazing clutch of heated disgust with the abundant fiascos of corrupt African leaders, who have not created egalitarian post-colonial orders for all in their backyards.

Nhamuave died for the collective cause of African immigrants who have been rendered destitute and homeless by the selfish actions of an unrepentant and blundering political elite that masquerades as the African Union. The gory scene where Nhamuave died in 2008, an unassuming road in Alexandria Township, could have represented an apprehensive consolidation of exhausted continental hopes and harsh resentment over ever-increasing social and economic inequality in Zimbabwe, South Africa and Mozambique. Why did Nhamuave meet his death 600 miles away from his home in the village of Vuca, near Homoine in southern Mozambique?

With a GDP per capita of $1200, which ranks 212 out of 230 countries in the world, Mozambique characterises the haplessness of socialist leaning ideological rule in the Southern African Development Community (SADC). So often, the material legacies African leaders bequeath on highly anticipative communities remain fiscal catastrophes and lawful authoritarianism. Zimbabwe is no exception: while the probable riches of Zimbabwe shrivel at the altar of populist rhetoric and the nation totters on the brink of absolute economic chaos – President Robert Mugabe somehow felt the need to claim that anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela was a sell out.

So, how has the Mandela legacy failed black South Africans? This reckless evaluation volunteered by Mugabe warrants closer examination. On the eve of independence in 1980, the self-styled Leninist-Marxist leader sang a completely different tune about race relations and economic empowerment. He promised peace and prosperity for all: "Our people, young and old, men and women, black and white, living and dead, are, on this occasion, being brought together in a new form of national unity that makes them all Zimbabweans. Independence will bestow on us a new personality, a new sovereignty, a new future and perspective, and indeed a new history and a new past. Tomorrow we are being born again; born again not as individuals but collectively as a people, nay, as a viable nation of Zimbabweans"

Yet Mugabe deceived his words with murderous actions when thousands of Ndebele-speaking people were killed during Gukurahundi between 1983-1987. Mugabe later defied his flamboyant declaration to pursue an all-inclusive state when, on the 20th anniversary of independence in 2000, he described white landowners as "enemies of the state". Land invasions by war veterans and state sanctioned farm designations drove thousands of white commercial farmers off farmlands across the country. And later on, an election process dominated by profound violence against opposition MDC politicians and supporters in 2008, confirmed that the so-called enemies of the state encompassed Matabeleland folks and white farmers and all black citizens who did not support Zanu-PF.

This ethnical and political conundrum could have been the unscrupulous state of affairs that Mandela foresaw and wanted to avoid during the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) negotiation. Nonetheless, Mandela did not abandon the need to help and support the black community. His administration enacted regulations that helped found a black middle class when the Employment Equity Act, No 55 of 1998 was passed into law. And, in an effort to inspire equal participation in business, South Africa enacted Black Economic Empowerment laws in 2003. It also instituted the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act in 2002, to help correct business-related and social wrongs of the past.

South Africa still has immense social and economic woes to resolve though, in spite of all of the abovementioned economic measures. Approximately 55% of South Africans now live in poverty, up from 53.2% six years ago. That means about 30.4 million people live below the poverty line, of which 13 million are children – and 18.1 million people receive state-funded social grants. South Africa in fact spends a staggering R121 billion on social welfare assistance annually. Meanwhile, Zimbabwe spends much less on social interventions: the El-Nino-related Food Deficit Mitigation Strategy (FDMS), a facility that should help the 2-8 million to 4 million people classified as food insecure, was allocated US$500 000 in the 2016 budget. While education assistance for one million disadvantaged children, received an allocation of only $US10 million.

Notwithstanding the extensive benefits of the social welfare system in South Africa, calls for radical land and economic reforms are escalating by the day, particularly because the unemployment rate stands at 27.7 %. And although South Africa introduced a land reform programme in 1994, a 2013 state land audit report shows that, by 2012, only 7.95 million hectares had been transferred to black owners through land reform. This represented only 7.5% of formerly white-owned land. So the increasing popularity of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), a left-leaning party that plans to institute land reform without compensation and nationalise mines, banks and strategic sectors – and offer free health care, free houses and free education up to undergraduate level at university level, suggests mounting despondency with the methodical economic transformation being effected by the ANC.

Ominously for the poor masses in South Africa: populist land and commercial seizures have smothered transformation attempts in the DR Congo and Zimbabwe and created powerful and affluent elites under the pretence of mass economic empowerment. The late Zairian dictator Mobutu Sese Seko and his close circle of power-hungry enablers looted billions of dollars in the DR Congo in the space of 32 years. Joseph Kabila, who has ruled the volatile nation since January 2001, faces accusations of political repression and public corruption. Zimbabwe has also fallen victim to similar dealings. In 2016, the opposition PDP, led by former finance minister Tendai Biti, alleged the Mugabe family owns 14 commercial farms and President of the Senate Edna Madzongwe has six farms. Home Affairs minister Ignatius Chombo reportedly has five farms and State Security minister Kembo Mohadi has four. Economic Planning minister Obert Mpofu apparently owns three farms and Local Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere has two farms.

This unequal distribution of wealth challenges the central substance of socialism and Mugabe's unwarranted permanence in office diminishes the notion of consistent and democratic change. Mandela called it quits after one term in office, and that illustrious and selfless decision – which still is an oddity in African politics –could be the decisive act that has strengthened democracy and engendered racial plurality in society and legalistic accountability in politics and cultivated a sound electoral system in South Africa.

That exceptional inheritance Mandela bequeathed to South Africa, despite incredible challenges from conservative elements in society, has endured and allowed a vibrant and representative culture to surface. That is the fair legacy that has ensured South Africa remains an economic giant. That is the tangible legacy that Mugabe might want to deliberate on before he denounces Mandela: because that is the magnificent heritage that has accommodated millions of African dreamers. That is the legacy that will help Africa rise from the ashes of dictatorial obsessions and electoral calamities.

Source - nehanda
All articles and letters published on Bulawayo24 have been independently written by members of Bulawayo24's community. The views of users published on Bulawayo24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Bulawayo24. Bulawayo24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.