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Solly Moeng delves into the enduring patterns of complacency within Africa’s former liberation movements, using Zimbabwe’s history under Robert Mugabe as a backdrop. Moeng explores how these movements often shield each other from accountability, placing blame on external factors while ignoring internal corruption and failures. He points to the ANC’s enabling role in Zimbabwe’s crisis and draws parallels to South Africa’s current state of affairs, questioning whether South Africans will ever rise above the narratives of blame and confront the need for change, both in governance and societal mindset.
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Voter Apathy; Voter Fear – No Difference
By Solly Moeng*
Several years ago – I should be saying “a good number of years ago” now – weekly, Hogarth-signed, editorials used to appear in South Africa’s Sunday Times newspaper with the same question asked, week in and week out: “what will it take to make the Zimbos angry?” By ‘Zimbos’, Hogarth was referring to the people of Zimbabwe. Then president Robert Mugabe was still running the show, still shielded by ZANU-PF, which he also used as a personal assegai to keep Zimbabweans on tow, emotionally, and the West, particularly the United Kingdom, forever guilt-ridden for, ostensibly, failing to fulfil its Lancaster House promises.
Like most former liberation movements strewn all over Africa, including South Africa, and which have failed as leaders in formal democracies, Mugabe was very good at using his fine oratory skills as a two-edged sword, to entertain the gullible and threaten his enemies, real and perceived. He also used lethal weapons, of course, like in Matabeleland and, some thirty years later when ZANU=PF’s electoral longevity became less sure, to make the lives of anyone who seemed to have more electoral and intellectual appeal that him, vis-à-vis the people of Zimbabwe.
There is, apparently, an unwritten or gentlemen’s contract amongst Africa’s former liberation movements that they would protect one another ad vitam aeternam, ensuring that only they remained in power, no matter what. Even when any one of them acted against the fundamental human rights of the people it played a role to defend, and the sovereign interests of their countries, the others would form a laager around it, shielding it against any scrutiny while appealing to archaic African mores and practices and placing the sources of its troubles at the doors of the West.
Africa’s post-colonial history is filled with leaders who turned into incompetent, kleptocratic, murderous monsters who knew they would continue benefitting from the protection of their fellow African leaders, all in the name of African brotherhood and collective victimhood.
The ANC, in South Africa has been, and continues to be, one of ZANU-PF’s most formidable enablers. Former South African president, Thabo Mbeki, notoriously retorted to a journalist who asked him what South Africa would do about the crisis in Zimbabwe by saying this, “Crisis, what crisis?” even as scores of Zimbabweans were crossing the border into neighbouring countries and, in greater numbers, South Africa, escaping their former liberators to seek a better life in a country that enjoyed, at least in those days, relative economic and social stability. They also wanted a surer for their children.
The ANC has also repeatedly stood up against anyone who tried to tell the truth about rigged elections in Zimbabwe. The real enemies, they always insist, are those who seek ‘regime change’ in Zimbabwe. They argue, to boot, that any regime change – even if it happened following a free and fair electoral victory by a local opposition party – would lead to the overturning of what they describe as “the gains of the revolution”. But, what gains, what revolution?
The same arguments get used in the case of South Africa. Many, particularly in rural areas where access to the internet and, therefore, independent sources of news, is hard and expensive, if it happens at all, believe the lie that lifer would be gloom without the ANC. This is no different from what abusive partners are known to tell their abused victims.
Some traditional Chiefs, also with vested interest in the perpetual ignorance of their “subjects” and mindful of the often-generous stipends they receive from, in the case of South Africa, the ANC government, do not help. They happily spread the narrative that should the ANC lose elections and a party like the Democratic Alliance (DA) come to power, apartheid would return. There are also seemingly “clever”, academically certified, urban Blacks who believe this nonsense.
Now, fast-forward to contemporary South Africa – with an obligatory reactive glance to the period just before the removal of Mbeki and the advent of Zuma – Hogarth should be asking the same question about South Africans that he asked of Zimbabweans; what really makes them angry?
Has everything that was revealed to have happened under state capture and other forms of corruption made them angry? Have they bothered to read the report by the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture? Do they understand the concept of opportunity cost and have they taken needed time to ask how it could ever make sense that the said Commission’s report – having placed the (mis)governing ANC at the centre of everything that went wrong – would be required to be handed to the president of the ANC to determine how his ANC-led government would deal with those implicated in criminal wrongdoing?
Do South Africans ever bother to connect the dots between the current state of South Africa and the endless reported crimes of institutional sabotage linked to people within, and shielded by, ANC? Where is the logic of South Africans?
Will South Africans ever come together in, greater numbers, to demand and end to the Orwellian Animal Farm their country has been turned into that those who have been implicated in criminal, even treasonous, wrongdoing be charged, prosecuted, and barred from ever running for office or being deployed in any state institution, including the country’s foreign missions?
Or, are we going to see the increasing numbers of narratives that blame colonialism, apartheid, Whites, and the West, for everything that has gone wrong, being used to flagellate South Africans into emotional submission, afraid to speak out if they’re white, afraid of being labelled racists nostalgic of the past and, if they’re black, kitchen ni@#ers taking orders from their white masters to speak against “their own”?
Where will it all end? Is there anything that makes South Africans angry enough to stand-up and be part of the change that is needed – irrespective of consequences for self – or must they be left to gleefully remain in their slowly boiling bowl of water until they can no longer breath?
How bad must things be before South Africans, united in their diversity, stand up to demand decisive change from the streets and through the ballot box?
*Solly Moeng is a South African communication strategist, public speaker, and opinion columnist. He is known for his commentary on various socio-political and economic issues in South Africa and beyond.
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