For Mboweni's growth plan to succeed the ANC has to give up certain dogmatic positions that were formulated when 7% growth was the status quo, writes Adriaan Basson.
A school boy looks at a burning barricade during a shutdown demonstration in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe (Zinyange Auntony/Getty Images)
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Zimbabwe has lived in the periphery of our vision. It is a taunt by those who have left South Africa and believe that we are headed along that path. Perhaps it is our fear that stops us engaging on the tragedy just north of us, writes Howard Feldman.
Zimbabwe is a tragedy. The recent fuel increase of 200% has
proven to be the final straw to break the proverbial economic back.
The protests that followed have been dealt with in the
harshest manner, with means utilised by the worst of dictators around the
The internet was switched off, people have been shot and
arrested and door to door searches have been implemented. Shops, schools and
businesses have been closed, while the government sought to curtail a
devastated and heartbroken people.
The light of democracy that flickered briefly, has been
The South African government said hardly a word. When
approached for an emergency loan of R16bn it stated that the country does not
have that kind of money to assist. Treasury is right of course, but a word of
sympathy, a gesture of kindness doesn't cost much.
I am often perplexed as to why the ANC and the department of
international relations and cooperative affairs (Dirco) seem to be a lot less
concerned about our neighbours on the African continent than they are about
happenings further afield. The focus appears to be almost inversely
proportional to the distance from the country. Zimbabwe, it follows, stands
little chance of receiving any attention.
This is not a new phenomenon. Former president Thabo Mbeki
believed in "quiet diplomacy" when it came to Robert Mugabe and former
president Jacob Zuma appeared to support him more than he did encourage him
It is clear, that as its strongest economic neighbour, South
Africa was in a position to assert some kind of pressure on the state. But it
failed repeatedly to do so.
There are a number of possible reasons that might explain this
I initially wondered if it wasn't that some form of
internalised racism or colonialism was at play. The internalisation of racism,
sexism or even antisemitism is sadly more common than we might think. I have
written about the challenges faced by women in the South African corporate
world (specifically black women) and have noted many cases where the
perpetrators of sexism were in fact other women.
I recall one specific case at a bank where a customer, a
black woman, refused to deal with another black woman as her private banker.
She wanted a white man to advise her on matters of finance. It mattered nought
that the man was significantly less qualified or capable.
Perhaps in this case South Africans have somehow accepted the
colonial ideology that the events in Africa are of less important than that of
Europe or the United States. If so, we have some adjusting to do.
Another alternative is maybe that South Africans have always
lived in fear of what has occurred in Zimbabwe. From being the "breadbasket
of Africa" it has become a country where people starve, where land grabs
occurred at the behest of the president and where the denial of democratic
rights of freedom of expression defines the country.
Zimbabwe has lived in the periphery of our vision. It is a
taunt by those who have left South Africa and believe that we are headed along
Perhaps it is our fear that stops us ever really focussing
and engaging on the tragedy just north of us.
The last and most cynical option is that it is simply not
politically expedient to criticise the country because there is little to be
gained from it. It is more important to show a united continent that to demand
better behaviour from its leadership. We cannot forget that South Africa
embarrassingly awarded safe harbour to Omar al-Bashir and will rarely comment
on the denial of rights when perpetrated by other African states.
The most tragic part of the Zimbabwe situation is that it matters not one bit what the reasons are for South Africa's disinterest. What matters is that the people of a country on our doorstep are suffering. And we don't seem give a damn.
- Howard Feldman is a keynote speaker and analyst. He is the author of two books and is the morning talk show host on ChaiFM.Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.
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