A tale of two miracles

2014-11-17 13:45

About a week ago, I was walking through the Genocide Memorial in Kigali, Rwanda.

Somewhere between the photographs of the children who were being hacked to death while we in South Africa were celebrating our freedom in 1994, and a display of the weapons neighbours had used on each other, I couldn’t help but think of how lucky we were.

There have been rumblings from a number of quarters across South Africa that the negotiated settlement reached in the early 1990s was rubbish. It was “selling out”.

Blacks don’t feel that their lot has changed. Indeed, white families still take home up to 12 times more than them.

Afrikaners, rather poorly represented by a buffoonic Steve Hofmeyr, feel that their language, culture and even the lives of their brethren are under threat.

Meanwhile, the coloureds and Indians were once too dark and are now too light for their own good.

I have often heard it said that “we should not have negotiated; we should have kept fighting”. I get it. No one likes a stalemate. It’s like watching a heavyweight bout be declared a draw.

Imagine how unsatisfying Polokwane, the site of the last elephantine battle of our time, would have been had presidents Jacob Zuma and Thabo Mbeki polled the same number of votes.

But the truth is, our negotiated settlement was not a stalemate.

Let’s check the “balance of forces”.

On one hand, a bankrupt state with the most sophisticated army in Africa. Despite the support of the West, the apartheid state was increasingly isolated.

Sanction activism and the fall of the communist East meant support was wearing thin.

Back home, the country was ungovernable. The natives were rising, a full-blooded civil war was imminent and the enemy was in every white home – cleaning up their baby’s poo.

On the other hand, there were increasingly fragile liberation movements in countries whose appetite for fighting the big gorilla of the region was waning.

Support from the East collapsed as they did. Keeping up morale in guerrilla camps was like walking on water.

It was obvious the leadership could not hold both its trained and rag-tag members from attacking “soft targets” for long.

Add to this powder keg right wing nationalist Afrikaners threatening to pool military reservists, armed black Bantustan soldiers who may or may not have been loyal to their leaders, the vicious killing machine of Inkatha assisted by Askaris.

Violence, anger and fear in the streets. Hate in our hearts.

It is indeed a miracle that South Africa even exists today.

In Rwanda, after three decades of oppression of one part of the population by the other, both of which incidentally spoke the same language and shared a culture, this miracle did not happen.

Instead, one side walked out of a peace process in 1993 and, as one government official said, “prepared for a catastrophe!”.

When it came – after a plane carrying both Rwanda’s and Burundi’s presidents was shot down – it was swift. Within 90 minutes, roadblocks were erected all over the country.

Armed militia, to whom the government had given more than $4?million worth of new arms, went house to house. Ordinary citizens were given machetes and, after years of government propaganda, sliced their friends and lovers in half – after raping them.

A million people were killed. It was the fastest genocide in history.

Rwanda’s real miracle is where it is today. Already considered the Singapore of Africa, it boasts a 7% growth rate, and last year was rated a better place to do business in Africa than even South Africa. It has almost zero corruption.

Behind both miracles is leadership. Our leaders prevented catastrophe. Theirs are getting them out of one. Ours created the platform from which we can now attain greater freedom.

Leadership is the only way our second miracle – economic parity and growth (liberation) – will be manifest. It’s time we stopped faffing, splintering and arguing.

It is time we led the African rise that our freedom promised.

Follow me on Twitter @shakasisulu

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