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The African by Eric Mafuna.

There are many definitions of an African. Some say it is anyone who lives in Africa and owes their loyalty to the soil of the continent. Others say residence is not enough and should include a higher calling that would encompass cultural heritage and language.

This is not an article about that definition, but about the kind of African whose roots are in Africa, the indigenous African.

These issues arise as one tries to deal with painful realities of our time.

A group of researchers led by well-known thinker Eric Mafuna, grouped under the name Africa Now, has been researching the problem of African leadership. The thesis is simple: African communities are in crisis and the leadership of many institutions run by Africans is in turmoil.

President Thabo Mbeki tried two years ago to call people to his home and feed them and say "come forward and provide leadership in your areas of expertise", but nothing is coming of that effort.

In my home area of Nzhelele, in Limpopo, virtually all the general dealer shops, which number more than 20, are now run by Indians after the African owners went bankrupt.

Two weeks ago, I had lunch with someone who runs a 3 500-strong company, the most Africanised section of which had been fired en masse for fraud and dereliction of duty.

A white replacement has been appointed and work is going on.

"That kills me," he said.

A member of Cabinet told me about the frustrations of getting into government and hiring African people because that is the right thing to do, only for them not to deliver in the majority of cases.

"When you come from where we come from and you then have to realise that if you want something done quickly you have to rely on whites, it is really debilitating. You bleed internally, but our very own comrades do not work. There is generally no work ethic. Documents will not come on time or they will be sloppy. That is the painful truth."

Africa Now has been grappling with this issue on behalf of Eskom, which spent more than R6-million funding the research. They have looked at the Jewish experience of leadership, asking what it is that makes Jews such a successful group everywhere, able to integrate but also remaining distinct.

Community structures, religion, history, culture and all other things that make Jews who they are, are intact.

Indians are by and large the same as Jews, sticking together and supporting each other in their business ventures, and also ensuring strong community structures.

Afrikaners built their own communities and businesses and, despite the loss of political power, are still a community - distinct and thriving.

The African structures, on the other hand, are all gone, and those that are still around are being ridiculed each day, from circumcision and cultural practices to religion and the medicines of our forefathers.

And yet Africans were not always like this. The forefathers and mothers who built Zimbabwe and the pyramids of Giza, who taught the Greek mathematicians the basics of algebra and trigonometry were great people.

The leaders of the kingdoms of Monomotapa, Timbuktu and Mapungubwe were great leaders. They could never have succeeded in doing what they did if they were selfish.

The reality today is that people in this country who are indigenous Africans are prone to irrational behaviour fed by greed and irresponsibility. The numerous corruption and fraud cases involving esteemed African leaders are worrying issues.

Africans are not the only ones fingered for corruption, but the rate and level of occurrence is worrying.

What about patriotic fervour? Would the Afrikaans-speaking white rugby players of yesteryear have ever refused a call-up to the Springbok team as we see in soccer?

This is a painful reality. We need to confront the legacy of colonialism and racism and its effects on African people, in particular.

Africa Now's research goes back to pre-colonial times to try to find the lost moorings that made the ancestors tick.

The question is whether African leaders are today forced by the legacy of colonialism to operate outside their cultural heritages and what effect this has on the underlying principles of their leadership styles.

This Wednesday Africa Now's results will be handed to Eskom executives. This newspaper has committed itself to making its pages a forum for debate on this issue. Is Africa Now's premise right or wrong? Is there something that can actually be done?

 

 

From the (leftist weekly) Mail and Guardian:

  Tales from a broken country

  (an essay from a black woman activist fighting the oppressive black Mugabe Regime, - the same terrorist Mugabe who was supported, put in power and trumpeted out as God’s gift to earth, the glorious liberator from the evil Rhodesian whites, by the same leftist media now suddenly demonising him as if he had ever been anything else but a terrorist….)

 

by Thandi Chiweshe

 

 

“My son is not coming home for his vacation. The major told him so. All leave was cancelled so that the army could “quell the riots”. I am upset. So is my son. This is the third time in as many months this has happened. I regret sending my young son into the army. But what other options are there for a young man without any “connections” in the right places? It was either the army or adding to my list of dependants.

I had watched my son’s “growth” in the army with trepidation at first, but now with anger, sadness, amusement and sometimes guilt. His first assignment was to the Democratic Republic of Congo. He was very excited about this. Lots of United States dollars (in his young mind). After a year, he had saved enough to buy a little two-roomed house in the townships. His loyalty to President Robert Mugabe grew. We quarrelled many times. He didn’t understand why so many of my friends and I are active in civil society (which, he was told, is the same as the opposition) or why I didn’t read the state-controlled Herald .

It is not easy to describe life in Zimbabwe today. I have several, sometimes conflicting, identities. The vastly different worlds that I inhabit in any one week make my life a mosaic.

The foray into the Congo is over. My son is back to earning peanuts. Just like all other ordinary Zimbabweans. The ambitious little house extension project has been stalled. At roof level. He has been to his army superiors’ farms to do all sorts of menial jobs — dipping the cattle, slaughtering the pigs and repairing fences. He has seen their wealth and comforts. The majors’ and the colonels’ houses are growing in size and in numbers. My son’s eyes have been opened. Thanks to own goals by the regime. He now reads the Daily News and the Zimbabwe Independent. I am actively aiding and abetting this transformation. I have taken over the house extension.

I am an NGO worker for most of the day and, during the other part, a foreign-currency dealer. On occasion I deal in petrol too. That is where the proceeds to extend my son’s house will come from. Like a privileged few, I earn my salary in British pounds. “What is the rate this week?” seems to be the main concern of my peers in the international NGO community. We are occasionally worried about the price of food or the scarcity of bank notes.

We are irritated by the amount of time we spend in the queue at our “diplomatic garage”. But it’s only an irritation because we know we will get it before the day is over. Many of us with access to forex can afford to buy our own fuel from the many garages that import fuel on our behalf. It’s overpriced, but at least it’s better than the stuff mixed with water that you buy from some ruling party functionary, or what the police “liberate” and sell at roadblocks. Some with forex resell what they buy from garages. After paying US$1 a litre, you can resell at US$2!

None of this makes me a millionaire. It only makes me a one-woman donor agency. Mother Bountiful. An aunt across town needs Z$5 000 to go to a doctor. A sister in another town needs anti-retrovirals. And the one I have been supporting for a while is out of immune-boosting vitamins. The reality of HIV/Aids is still part of the national crisis. But these days it has been forgotten, as they focus only on the politics. Saying hello to a doctor now costs Z$5 000. If she gives you a prescription you can expect to pay nothing less than Z$8 000 for basic painkillers. I have postponed seeing a doctor for the skin rash I have. My health seems to be a small concern compared to what others have to deal with.

I shell out school fees, bus fares and rent for nieces, nephews, distant cousins and Lord knows who else’s relatives. By the time I have paid for complete strangers’ groceries, paid visa fees for a desperate friend of a friend’s cousin who needed to flee, and listened to everyone’s tales of woe I am exhausted. I go round with a wad of cash. Just in case I bump into yet another long sad story. I keep more wads in the linen cupboard. By the end of the week I can’t account for Z$300 000.

My friend calls to say she needs help dealing with the “refugees” at her house. About a dozen women who were displaced from the township after last month’s mass action. Clothes, food, medicines or whatever we can give. The women are traumatised. Several were raped. They want to tell me their stories. I drop off the food and money and disappear. Afraid to embrace their pain.

Guilty that this is a product of my son and his troop’s “quelling mass action”. I am still dealing with the horror I saw at a clinic last week. Burnt arms, singed hair, scarred buttocks, lacerated vaginas. I can’t sleep without taking tablets anymore. When the pain is too much I avoid answering the phone. Tell the kids to say I am not around. How long does it take before one becomes a basket case?

Standing in a supermarket queue in Mount Pleasant just before the Movement for Democratic Change’s “final push”, I was struck by the differences in shopping baskets. In front of me was a gardener’s small family. Huddled around a basket with three items in it: the smallest tube of toothpaste, the smallest bar of soap and the smallest bottle of cooking oil. They argued about whether to buy sugar beans or dry kapenta. In the end they could not afford either. Behind me, two funkily dressed young women and their over-dressed but well-heeled male partners. You can always smell them from a mile off, these nouveau riche. They have too many cellphones, make deals loudly on them so that we can all hear about the millions they are making and their clothing definitely shows they have failed to buy class. These four had among them five trolleys carrying imported wines, crates of beer, tonnes of meats of all kinds, cakes to die for and enough Italian bread rolls to feed a small regiment. They argued over chicken or fish. “We need more foam bath. Take some of those apples they look delish … Oh in case this stayaway lasts longer shouldn’t we get more wine?”

Blessed are they who live in this rarefied stratosphere. It is easy to stay cocooned in this stratosphere. I tried to tell an office colleague about some of the things I have seen in my after-hours role. His eyes glazed over. Disbelief? Fear? Nonchalance? This side of Samora Machel Avenue, the horror stories of our national crisis are best left in the newspaper pages.

However, Zanu-PF’s madness now knows no bounds. Ugly reality has begun to penetrate every strata of Zimbabwean society. An international aid worker was butted on the head with a rifle for smiling “cheekily” at a police officer at a roadblock in the leafy suburb of Borrowdale. A business executive relative was made to sit on the ground and sing “I will never go round without my national ID again”. And of course good old Jonathan Moyo assaults our eyes and ears on the national airwaves each day. Dreadful as it sounds, I am glad the smell has now hit suburbia.



Keeping one’s head down is the worst thing to do in Zimbabwe. Either leave the country, or you stay and fight. Even if you don’t go looking for trouble, it will come looking for you. I have been heartened by my son’s transformation. He hasn’t led a mutiny yet, but I know he is not following orders blindly anymore either. I have been encouraged by the young women I saw lying in hospital — raped, beaten. “We are just waiting for this to heal so we can get out and organise some more actions. We won’t rest until Mugabe has gone,” they told me. I have been inspired by the erstwhile “non-political” mothers’ union in my church, praying to God to “remove this pharaoh from our land. Help us to be strong like David as he faced Goliath.”

As I dance to the very meaningless but melodious Rambai Makashinga (Stay Strong — a ruling party-sponsored jingle played every 30 minutes on all radio stations), I am energised and glad to be part of the rewriting of Zimbabwe’s history.”

Thandi Chiweshe is a Harare-based feminist activist

 

Super-rich black elite.  Duncan du Bois

Finance Minister Trevor Manuel's statement at a black economic empowerment conference in Cape Town last week that "government could shape policy and promulgate legislation but could not create entrepreneurs" (Business Report, May 21) highlights the basic fault line running through empowerment policies.

Two weeks ago it was reported that black investors had taken a 25% stake in Investec bank, the country's fifth largest, in a R810 million deal. The photograph published in Business Report (May 16) showed the smiling faces of Peter Malungani of Peu and Kani Titi of Tiso applauding Andy Leith, the MD of Investec. Their applause, however, should actually have been for the Public Investment Commission (PIC) because R550 million of the R810 million investment was funded by the PIC which administers the public service pension fund.

Writing in the Business Watch column of Business Report, Max Gebhardt commented that "no flies are hanging around the Investec boardroom when it comes to fulfilling its empowerment objective. It has not even bothered to wait for the much-heralded financial services charter for guidance". Too right. With cash from an impeccable source like the Public Investment Commission, Investec can afford to smile. A legislative target has been reached and two black businessmen have been fast-tracked into the ranks of the super-rich. The eight-year funding structure ensures that at the end of the funding period Peu and Tiso retain an unencumbered equity participation in Investec. Whatever their future fortunes, Malungani and Titi can't lose. Is that empowerment or enrichment? And where does entrepreneurship come in?

No wonder one analyst stated that "the PIC pensioners are taking all the risk while a few black empowerment groups are set to benefit from whatever upside there is". If it made sense, he said, to invest in Investec, then the PIC should do so directly. "That way it would benefit from all the upside as well as being exposed to all the downside (Business Report, May 16). Of the Investec deal, a fund manager was quoted as saying "the PIC must remember its fiduciary responsibility to its members and not to government policy".

Put another way, the PIC is providing a get-rich-quick subsidy to a select group of people. If empowerment is meant to reach out and to energise new economic terrain, then the empowerment of Peu and Tiso is a misnomer. They're just piggy-backing on an established business. Malungani of Peu admitted as much when he said he would benefit greatly from exposure to Investec's business units (Business Report, May 16).

Basking in reflected glory is simply good fortune and nothing else. Yet the creation of a super-rich black elite seems to be what is happening. Ten years ago Tokyo Sexwale was a political hell-raiser earning R2 500 a month working for the ANC out of Shell House. Last December he bought Oude Kelder wine farm at Franschhoek for R15 million. As head of the multi-million rand mining company Mvelaphanda he has done well out of empowerment. Patrice Motsepe of ARMgold has also made stellar progress. He's now worth R3,1 billion. Increasingly, boardrooms bristle with black executives. But where's the trickle- down effect? Instead, poverty and joblessness among blacks have increased while the income gap between the black empowered elite and the masses has reached obscene proportions.

The SA Human Rights Commission, a body appointed by Parliament and charged with monitoring human and social rights in the country, recently accused the government of failing the poor. In a wide-ranging report it cited, inter alia, the increase of informal settlements as proof of insufficient delivery of housing.

Gross underspending on welfare aid, maladministration and general incompetence were cited as underpinning the failure to honour commitments to improve the quality of life (Mercury, April 23). Black empowerment did not feature in the picture as an instrument to alleviate poverty.

On this score, Manuel has been critical. He rightly says empowerment should not aim for mere ownership targets but should go deep into rural areas and pull people into the economy (Business Report, May 21). Addressing the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce (Nafcoc) last September, Remgro chairman, Johann Rupert, exploded the myth that the Afrikaner road to riches had been devolved by the state. He said the success his father Anton had in building his Rembrandt group was the result of individual initiative and sound business principles rather than anything to do with being an Afrikaner. In any case, he said, racial exclusivity was hardly a model to emulate (Business Times, September 29, 2002).

Yet it would seem that Rupert's words fell on deaf ears. Danisa Baloyi of the National Black Business Caucus insists that the government must play a bigger role in empowerment. She would do well to study some local economic history. The C. G. Smiths, Huletts, Ernest Oppenheimers, Ruperts, Hersovs, Reddys and numerous other South African entrepreneurs earned their way to the top by hard work, enterprise and initiative. There were no quick-fix, state-assisted passages for them.

Self-sustaining wealth is the product of entrepreneurship. And it is what people invest in, not colour. Despite the fact that there is a plethora of laws favouring black employment and that the government of the day is black-dominated, the call by black business leaders like Baloyi for still further government assistance in promoting empowerment simply smacks of greed and the prospect of enrichment. No wonder the black empowerment stake in the JSE Securities Exchange has shrunk to below eight percent.

·  Duncan du Bois is a DA Durban Metro ward councillor. He writes in his personal capacity.

 

'Wait Time'

by Peter Beinart  of TNR from Cape Time.

 

South African President Thabo Mbeki has a big idea. And, while it's virtually unknown in the United States, in South Africa it has attained what University of the Witwatersrand political scientist Tom Lodge calls "almost liturgical status." The idea is that, under Mbeki's leadership, South Africa is ushering in a continentwide "African Renaissance." This renaissance, in Mbeki's vision, is about genuine modernization, in contrast to the artificial, failed modernization that characterized the first decades of African independence. It means assimilating Western technology--not just importing it, but integrating it with traditional African values so it no longer feels alien. And, even more importantly, it means assimilating democratic values--giving substance to the veneer of parliamentary democracy that has characterized despotic postcolonial African government. Just as Africans must make the Internet their own, he argues, they must internalize democracy as well. It is time, Mbeki announced in 1998, to "put behind us the notions of democracy and human rights as peculiarly Western."

Coming from the democratically elected leader of Africa's most powerful country, those are important words. They implicitly repudiate the relativistic nonsense that African dictators and their Western sycophants have long peddled to justify the continent's tyrannies. And they form the moral foundation for a kind of grand bargain: Africa's leaders will demand democracy across the continent, and the United States and Europe will reward them by substantially boosting foreign aid. The outlines of such a bargain began taking shape in 2001, when Mbeki helped create something called the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD). In June 2002, it was endorsed by the G-8 economic powers. In July, it won the endorsement of the African Union. Just as Mbeki hoped, Africa seemed to be embarking on a new partnership with the world.

There's just one problem: Mbeki himself. His behavior is betraying his vision. And with his blessing, Zimbabwe is turning his African Renaissance into an ugly joke.

In the last two years, Robert Mugabe has put his country on the fast lane to hell. And Mbeki's government has cheered him on. Mugabe's campaign of terror began in June 2000, after the opposition Movement for Democratic Change came from nowhere to claim close to half of the contested seats in parliament. Mugabe responded with a two-pronged strategy aimed at securing victory in the presidential elections due in 2002. First, he whipped up racial hatred by sending government goons to chase white farmers off their land. Second, he began plotting to rig the vote. And Pretoria helpfully facilitated both. In December, after months of continuous, often violent, land invasions, a delegation from the Southern African Development Community--of which South Africa is the most powerful member--lauded Zimbabwe's "improved atmosphere of calm and stability." Not long afterward, as Lodge notes in Politics in South Africa: From Mandela to Mbeki, the leader of an African National Congress (ANC) delegation to Zimbabwe announced that he was "deeply satisfied" by Mugabe's opposition to allowing foreign monitors to observe the upcoming presidential vote.

Mugabe eventually relented, allowing select foreign delegations to observe the campaign. What they found, in the words of University of London Professor Stephen Chan, author of Robert Mugabe: A Life of Power and Violence, was "a massive and sustained program of brutalities and persecutions, of beatings and murders, of coercion and threats." The head of the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, an alliance of local civic groups, said, "There is no way these elections could be described as substantially free and fair." State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the election "was won by intimidation and not by votes." But the South African government's monitoring team disagreed, calling the vote "legitimate."

After the election, things went from bad to worse. By late 2002, Mugabe's land invasions had replaced many white farmers with corrupt party cronies. And, even where needy black farmers did get land, the government failed to give them the seeds, fertilizer, and equipment to produce crops. As a result, in the last year farm production has fallen 50 percent, and the country's economy has contracted by more than one-tenth. Zimbabwe, once a major agricultural exporter, has begun importing grain. But the government is denying it to people who voted for the opposition. Current estimates suggest that half the country faces starvation.

In response to these atrocities, the United States, Britain, and the European Union have imposed sanctions. South Africa, by contrast, has announced plans to increase economic cooperation with its neighbor to the north. In October, Mbeki said, "We are not going to act on the Zimbabwe question with a view to punishment." He followed that up in December by calling Mugabe's party, Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), "our ally and fellow liberation movement." And, at the ANC's national conference that month, ZANU-PF came to say thank you. Emmerson Mnangagwa, the speaker of Zimbabwe's parliament and a close Mugabe ally, told cheering ANC delegates, "On numerous occasions, you have sought to clarify the position in Zimbabwe in response to our detractors." Indeed, to Mbeki and the ANC's enduring discredit, it has.

The simplistic explanation of Mbeki's behavior is that he is a would-be Mugabe himself, plotting to impose authoritarian, demagogic rule in South Africa. The truth is more complicated: Mbeki has actually pursued an aggressively free-market economic policy, one that has brought him into conflict with longtime ANC allies in the labor movement and the South African Communist Party. His refusal to condemn Mugabe, like his earlier flirtation with Afrocentric AIDS quackery, more likely stems from a fear of being seen as insufficiently radical by the ANC's militant political base.

But, whatever the reason, Mbeki's pro-Mugabe policy is making a mockery of his vision for the continent. The European Union, the likely source of much of the NEPAD aid Mbeki hopes to procure, has already implied that it considers Zimbabwe a test of African leaders' seriousness about democracy. If the West does not substantially aid Mbeki's grand compact, left-leaning critics will undoubtedly attack U.S. and European leaders as cynics who talk big about Africa's future but don't follow through when it counts. And that's partially true. But what about the grandiose cynic in Pretoria? Morgan Tsavangirai, the Zimbabwean opposition leader now potentially facing the death penalty for treason, recently said, "You know this is the saddest thing about Africa, all these flowery declarations and all without commitment. ... The declarations are not worth the paper they're written on." Looks like the true African Renaissance will have to wait.