Kameraad Mhambi started this blog out of desperation: The direction South Africa was going from around 1999 was frightening to me. I was determined to write my way out of this anxiety.
But I only started writing in 2004. The ominous signs were there much earlier, perhaps as early as even 99.
Many – like me – chose to ignore the worst signs and hope for the best. Most well-todo South Africans were still ignoring the signs right trough to 2005.
This was madness.
Thousands of South African were dying from Aids due to government inaction. We surpassed Brazil as the most unequal society on earth. Public services were failing and a tide of corruption swept trough the nation.
We now had three times as many private security officers as police. Still we also boasted the highest reported rape rate per capita.
The government supported countries like Sudan in denying gay rights in international forums. While at home a blind eye was being turned to the increasing incidents of xenophobic slaughter of black foreigners. Their mistreatment by the police and other state organs was also on the rise.
We had a vindictive and considering our past – catastrophically – a racist president.
He denied the rights of whites to engage in public life and suffered from a severe dose of Afro-pessimism – read that as racism if you like – with regards to blacks.
His complicated racism caused two outcomes: a mass exodus of white skills form the public sector and instinctive denials and cover-ups when his ‘African’ administration kocked-up.
There should have been an outcry – yet public debate had been silenced.
Even noted moral leaders like Bono chum Kader Asmal, UDF stallwart Trevor Manual and Codesa darling Cyril Rhamaphosa could not find the courage to speak out against Mbeki.
Well off South Africans told us how good it was to live in South Africa circa 2004. Economically they never had it so good.
Internationally the picture was similar. As late as 2004 Mbeki was fetted on visits to the UK by organisations like the BBC, and Sussex University as an exemplary African leader.
Even worse. Mbeki was planning – not unlike Vladimir Putin – to rule by proxy as ANC party leader using Medvedev style puppets as presidents for years to come.
Who had the balls and the power to break the hold of this dictator in the making?
There has been a number of positive spin offs from Zuma’s confronting of Mbeki:
- South Africa has been a fully democratically elected republic for just 15 years. Yet we will now already have a third elected president. Unheard of on a continent where presidents overstay their welcome regularly. This sets the tone for a culture of non entitlement to unlimited power which will make it hard to have a president for life in the future.
- The culture of silence has been broken. The genie of questioning the wisdom of government is out of the box. It won’t easily back in.
- There is a credible black opposition party, the black white based politics is breaking down somewhat. A very good thing.
- Mr Zuma is engaging whites and Afrikaners in particular, and Kameraad Mhambi firmly believes that if he does not do so – there’s not much hope of getting the public sector back into shape.
- Mr Zuma is likely to much more pro poor thna the Mbeki government. But I don’t think he will wreck the market economy in the process. He might even lift restrictions on ill thought out black economic empowerment provisions.
- Mr. Zuma’s ANC – although still prickly and defensive – has admitted they have made mistakes. Admitting you have a problem is essential to start finding a cure. Mr. Zuma has found it in him to admit mistakes himself. The organisation has even apologised for some of its heavy handed decisions.