A Twin Case of Treachery in Southern Africa.
South Africa and Zimbabwe have a strong tradition of sharing not only borders, business, culture and tradition but also weather patterns. The month of May in Southern Africa is the beginning of winter so when dry chilly winds blow over the Drakensberg Mountains in Kwazulu-Natal, we citizens of Harare have to insulate our bodies in woolen apparel just to remain barely alive! Whenever Cape Town is spewing thunderstorms and hailstones, the people of Bulawayo wade in muddy roads. Such is our bond with South Africa that Robert Mugabe even gloats about 'revolutionary ties' between his ZANU-PF and Mandela's ANC - another case of a dictator scrapping the bottom of the barrel of companionship and acceptance! If the truth be told, it was Joshua Nkomo's ZAPU that had a working relationship with ANC, not ZANU-PF. Who will save our children from an advanced case of distorted facts and delusionary fables meant to prop up the ego of a fading political party?
Last month April saw Zimbabwe and South Africa experience unprecedented pollution of Icelandic proportions, not volcanic ash, but an encounter with two 'pollutations' who have mastered the art of repetitive boredom. On the other side of the Limpopo River, one argues persistently for singing a provocative 'wartime' song, going great lengths to ignore and defy court judgment banning the haunting melody. On my side of the great river, the other is bent on a refrain called 'Rob Paul to pay Peter' - an expropriation of corporate assets as one way of empowering indigenous citizens!
South African Mail & Guardian blog tracker Haiwa Tigere once claimed that Julius Malema is arguably one of the most popular politicians in South Africa today, yet senseless loudness in music parlance falls clinically in the category of noise pollution. In Zimbabwe, other commentators say Saviour Kasukuwere, a member of ZANU-PF's youth brigade, has assumed demigod status by defying and humiliating MDC president and Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirayi. But as was with 'war veterans' Chenjerai Hunzvi and Joseph Chinotimba, once he has served his political purpose, Mr. Kasukuwere will be discarded like hot charcoal long before the proverbial cock trumpets the last note.
The time-worn socialist bigotry that you enrich the poor by destroying the rich, as in year 2000, wrecked havoc in both countries last April. At least Malema's country has a semblance of rule of law, a non compliant media and an inquisitive public – usually ingredients of a vibrant democracy. He may sing 'Kill the Boer' all he wants, but the legion of activists ruling supreme in that country will always call him to account. When he threatens to expropriate 'white-owned' mines, no one in his party takes him seriously, because his country's constitution considers property rights sacrosanct.
But just across the river, the beat is slightly different. His counterpart is a member of a political party that follows up rhetoric with a deluge of whips, sticks and stones. In a country where ninety percent of the laws are promulgated by and for one political party, a citizen can wake up to discover that in fact his nightmare is real life! Robert Mugabe, unlike Jacob Zuma, cares little about image, reputation and global condemnation. Inevitably, his ministers are insulated from prosecution, thus have a blank cheque to live their dreams. And so when Kasukuwere says he will implement a policy of dispossession, the entire ZANU-PF propaganda machinery not only echoes this statement with nauseating repetition but also attempts enforcement.
Ironically, the grand standing and posturing about 'successful' indigenisation is directed at the African media, with the highly partisan Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation unashamedly showing off land in the hands of ministers and party apologists. Reserve bank governor Gideon Gono once boasted to fellow fiscal plunderer King Mswati of Swaziland that his [Gono's] chicken farm is one of the best in Africa. How, in a so-called democracy, a public official who handles national reserves can make such damaging disclosure without prosecution can only happen in my country! Jonathan Kadzura, a onetime 'consultant' to the reserve bank, was once featured as a shining example of indigenisation. His farm – no doubt expropriated from some white man and a beneficiary of Gideon Gono's benevolent quasi-fiscal activities – is said to produce forty thousand eggs per week and eight hundred thousand broilers quarterly. Mugabe's cronies are completely and utterly insulated from free market input costs, so like Malema's Black Economic Empowerment 'jewels', these are mere 'tenderpreneurs' whose liquidity is based more on political patronage than business acumen.
The Iceland volcano will no doubt one day stop erupting and recede back to molten dormancy. Luckily, it has no army, police, ministers, youths and a partisan media to keep its molten lava and hot ash spewing trouble into the atmosphere. Zimbabwe is not that fortunate. Just when you think ZANU-PF is dormant and defeated, they brew another storm. South Africa is not far behind in the race for political self-destruction. Jacob Zuma unleashed a blinder when he admitted to an extramarital affair and soon after, Julius Malema poured scorn over the judiciary, showing them the middle finger with his wartime song. Before the ash settled on the trees, Malema threatened to 'Zimbabwenise' South African industry, praising Mugabe and calling MDC and a BBC reporter all sorts of names.
In April, when Morgan Tsvangirayi told the world that Kasukuwere's indigenisation regulations were null and void, the Prime Minister was accused of 'lying' by Mugabe, with Kasukuwere adding that nothing in the regulations was reversible. We waited with abated breath for Tsvangirayi to take a political whip and discipline the errant young minister but we should not have bothered starving our bodies of vital oxygen. Another ZANU-PF 'young turk', Philip Chiyangwa, was jointly implicated with minister Ignatius Chombo in a land grabbing scandal. Mugabe's police commissioner had the last laugh. The city mayor and his councillors were promptly summoned to court to answer charges of defamation. Zimbabwe has a new proverb: when a man is beaten by a poisonous snake, spare the reptile and kill the man so he does strain public health facilities!
Rejoice Ngwenya is President of Coalition for Liberal Market Solutions, a think tank affiliated with AfricanLiberty.org