Solly Moeng: You have the power, SA - use it

Solly Moeng (SUPPLIED)
Solly Moeng (SUPPLIED)

It is slow, silent, and almost unnoticeable to many, but no one can deny that once more, South Africa is seeing a steady stream of Zimbabweans arriving here to seek a better life.

Since everything is relative, it will hopefully be a better life for them. But at the same time, life is progressively worsening for us here, as living costs rise and our institutions feel the debilitating effects of state capture and other forms of corruption that were allowed to intensify over the past ten years – even though the facts emerging indicate that the venom of unethical conduct and criminal leadership was injected much earlier.   

We should hope that it doesn’t take too long before even those who claim to have the ability to simply bend and pick up the rand when it falls – while they received regular brown envelopes filled with money from Bosasa and other dodgy sources to complement ministerial and other already generous government salaries – also feel what the rest of us feel.

This is a load we all have to begin sharing at some point if the pressure for change is to be felt in the taxpayer-cushioned circles of our highly discredited political elite.  

Some Zimbabweans who had hastily returned home in a combined fervour of nostalgia and patriotism to help rebuild their country – and be part of their own version of a new dawn, following the removal of one Robert Gabriel Mugabe – are said to be regretting their premature return, and are beginning to check the expiry dates on their passports and resident visas from other parts of the world.

They had forgotten – and failed to connect the dots – that Zimbabwean president Emmerson Mnangagwa and his predecessor are cut from the same Zanu-PF cloth and political culture, and share some historic skeletons, e.g. the Matabeleland massacre, as well as the same interests, which kept them locked up in the closet.

The dinner party that returnee Zimbabweans rushed back home for seems to have unceremoniously ended before they even finished the starter course.

While those with special skills, money, foreign passports and long-term visas begin casting their eyes to faraway destinations, some of their fellow countrymen and -women with fewer options may look up contact details of friends and family members closer to home, especially in South Africa, hoping for a soft landing pad if they can find a way past the porous Beit Bridge border post (or one of several unofficial passing points along South Africa's northern frontier).

South Africans must never say never. Friends from other parts of the continent have, in recent years, repeated ad nauseam to those who will listen that they signs they observed in SA are very similar to those they observed in other countries over time – signs that made them flee such countries for South Africa.

They never imagined SA would be brought to its knees by a combination of corrupt, arrogant political elites on one side and a gullible electorate on the other.

The signs referred to by our African brothers and sisters do burn, no doubt, but they do not inflict immediate pain like when one places a hand on a hot plate.

They’re not an event; they’re a process that happens one madness at a time, until one day we - or some of us - wake up to a world we no longer recognise; a world in which people are not shocked by things that should shock them, like when politicians, including cabinet ministers, who are implicated in suspected criminality remain in their positions, unashamed, walking about taking selfies and addressing gullible crowds made up of the same people they keep stealing from.

Such criminal politicians have also mastered the art of playing victims; victims not of today’s events but of fast-receding historic times they shared with the victims of their contemporary crimes.

Yet the gullible electorate remains blinded by song, dance, and unproven anecdotes of heroic exploits by the ones pretending to lead them today while they steal from them and, in the process, prolong the time it should take them to exit the sad material conditions created over time.  

A prominent electoral slogan reminds South African voters that the power is in their hands. This begs some questions; do South Africans know what this means? Do they understand the power that lies in their hands? Will they use it to reclaim control of shaping their future or will they, yet again remain blinded by the same songs, dances and anecdotes accompanied by brightly coloured, foreign-made and sponsored caps and t-shirts that come with food parcels that will not even feed them for a week?

It cannot be right that only the long-suffering South African citizens have to be made to replenish the coffers that were merrily emptied by the politically connected who, as I write this, continue to live it off while they seem untouchable by our criminal justice system.

There are occasional precipices in the journeys of nations. Led by ethical, visionary leaders in the early 1990s, South Africans cast their mutual suspicion aside and held hands from across painful historic divides to take a plunge that helped them avoid a certain bloodbath.

Will they do the same in 2019, despite the dearth of credible leaders; hold hands again and take a plunge to avoid waking up in a place they might mistake for a Zimbabwe that increasing numbers have taken to fleeing? 

* Solly Moeng is brand reputation management adviser and CEO of strategic corporate communications consultancy DonValley Reputation Managers. Views expressed are his own.

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