This is a response to Jonty Fisher‘s ‘South Africa’s going the way of Zimbabwe’ posted on the Mail&Guardian‘s ThoughLeader blogging paltform.
I have read with interest the article and most especially the comments over the past few days.
I understand these first comments are not directly related to the topic at hand, but in the context of the debate which has ensued since the article being published, I wish to make a few points.
I, like Jonty, am one of those optimist types and am often accused of being blinkered to the rest of the goings on in this country. I still believe, however, that reading the good news, recognising the positive progress where it exists and being generally optimistic about our future will do more for the country than outright negativity masqueraded as realism or pragmatism.
I’ve spent much time, energy and frustration trying to convince South Africans abroad that South Africa is worth being positive about. I have found that by-in-large the South Africans abroad that trash the country at braais, dinner parties and the like do so because of a need to justify their decision to leave South Africa.
We live in (legally) one of the free countries in the world. If someone feels like South Africa is not for them now, or too risky, or the economic interventions affect them too much, or crime is too much to deal or any other valid reasons, they are free to leave South Africa and venture abroad. Indeed, were it not for my business here in South Africa, I am sure I would’ve spent a few years here and there already myself.
Any South African choosing to leave South Africa, either temporarily or through emigration, should not feel they need to justify their decision by convincing themselves, as well as the people around them, that South Africa is a Zimbabwe in the making and that it is indeed a matter of time. Surely you can be a South African living abroad and still be PROUD of where you come from and of the positive progress being made back home. www.southafrica.info, www.sagoodnews.co.za, www.sarocks.co.za and the like will all give these people the information they need to be proud of the advancement everyday in this country.
Then to the not-so-good: we have a young baby of a democracy and a whole lot of growing up lies ahead of us. Right now we’re teething, and it hurts. The sagas around Selebi, Pikoli, Hlope, Manto and the like are all extremely difficult pills for us to swallow but these scandals are not insurmountable. Our media is still free and can (within the limitations of the law) ensure truth is demanded of those in the highest echelons of government. If the Sunday Times broke the law in getting the Health Minister’s Health Records, then, unfortunately, they need to be prosecuted. Nobody should be exempt from the law and the leadership challenge during this time of teething will be for President Mbeki to show us that nobody is immune from investigation and prosecution; not the editor of a national newspaper, not the Chief Justice, not the Minister of Health, not the Commissioner of Police and so on.
As to the topic at hand, both sides of my family tree arrived in South Africa with the 1820 settlers. Both sides then moved to Rhodesia and both sides returned to South Africa by the middle of the 80’s. It was clear to them then, only a few years into democracy, that the effects of the debilitating civil war coupled with the rushed and flawed Lancaster House Agreement which led to the farce that saw Robert Mugabe take power was a recipe for yet another African National Disaster.
No doubt when our time came CODESA, the GNU and indeed our own constitution all took into account the lessons learned in the rest of Africa. CODESA started negotiations in December 1991, the GNU took over national governance in 1994 and only in February 1997 when the constitution was finalized, was power handed directly to the ANC. The process of handing control of the country from the NP to the ANC took nearly five and a half years.
By comparison, Zimbabwe saw hostilities end with the signing of Lancaster House just before Christmas in 1979 and by April 1980 Robert Mugabe and ZANU-PF had control of the country.
Compare 5 months for Zimbabwe and 5 years for South Africa. We did it properly.
South Africa will not go the way of the rest of Africa. Zimbabwe is the quoted example at present because it is in such a shocking state right now. Have no misconceptions that most Africans states have not been where they are now. By-in-large, the rest of Africa have been to the lowest low and are now rebuilding. Zambia, Mozambique, Angola are regional examples. They are building their economies, attracting investors, focusing on agriculture (thanks in no small part to ex-Zimbabwean farmers), building competence as responsible democratic leaders and generally trying to ensure their countries move only forward.
South Africa cannot and will not go the way of the rest of Africa. We have enough examples to learn from, enough education, modernity and intelligence in our leadership and enough goodwill from our neighbours and the rest of the world to ensure we never forget what we’re working toward.
We live a miracle every day in this country, but like most things these days, that miracle is dynamic and changing. In 1994 the miracle was democracy without civil war, through the nineties it was Madiba and his capacity to reconcile and in the new millennium the miracle is the rapid progress and integration we see taking place every day in this country. We’re moving forward. We sing the national anthem like we don’t remember the old one. We get angry when some idiot pulls out the old flag. We have black South Africans in France supporting the Bokke alongside white. We have roads, water, electricity, telephones, clinics, houses and schools where there were never any before – the places white generally don’t go and thus progress whites aren’t seeing.
We have a long, long way to go and a very many challenges to deal with along that road. We will succeed and of that I am absolutely certain. How can I be so certain?
“All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.” — Edmund Burke
The very fact that every single one of us, whether living in South Africa or not, is engaged in this conversation right here is testament to the sheer volume of resource, goodwill and hope behind the desire to see South Africa succeed.
I thank you all for your passion for our wonderful country.