Letter from America: If South Africa goes, we are doomed

By Ken Mufuka

My research interest was in finding the Methodist connection with early African nationalism. From South Africa came Enoch Sontonga, a Shangani who bequeathed to us the anthem: Nkosi Sikelela iAfrica. Another giant who walked on this earth was Chief Albert Lithuli, president of the African National Congress (ANC), 1952-1967.

Born in Zimbabwe at Hope Fountain Mission, Lithuli and his widowed mother settled at Endendale Methodist Mission in Natal. Both served as teachers and lay pastors in the Methodist faith.

Lithuli biographer says that he was intolerant of hatred and adamant that the struggle for human dignity in South Africa should follow a non-violent path.

His book, Let My People Go (1960) was regarded as offering a bridge between his native African culture and the Eurocentric culture, which dominated the world at the time.

His acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize (1960) further alienated the Dutch racists in South Africa, who plotted his murder.

It was Lithuli’s insistence against hatred of the Dutch racists that led to a breach in the ANC and the formation of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC).

The PAC’s appeal to the African youth was the belief that the only thing that a Dutchman understood was a bullet in the head.

Here is the connection between the old and the new, personified in the person of South African President Jacob Zuma whose appeal and ideology, solidified in the Umkonto weSizwe, is expressed in his anthem: Bring me my machine gun.

None of my hosts were familiar with Sontongo and Chief Lithuli who seemed to them like shadowy figures in the distant past. My taxi driver was enthusiastic about Zuma and was acquainted with the Economic Freedom Fighters.

Events in South Africa inexorably diverted my attention to the bitter narrative that hangs on Zuma like an albatross.

The narrative is that blacks (called Bantus in whispers) are indifferent to economic husbandry and that anybody other than an African will do well to handle the treasury. Therefore, the presence of Pravin Gordhan, of Asian origin, at the South African treasury, was a must, otherwise one day South Africa will wake up to find the treasury has been emptied.
Gordhan made his entry into South African politics through the Natal Indian Congress, an offshoot of Mahatma Gandhi’s Indian Congress.

If there is truth in this supposedly self-evident truth, and South Africa goes the way of Zimbabwe, then Africa is doomed.

One of my hosts was a youngish white business couple that had migrated to Australia, in their wisdom, to escape the coming doom. They confirmed that there was a huge “capital migration” from South Africa — he was, but one example.

Zuma has been implicated in the defence procurement scandals of 1999.
When his financial advisor, Shabir Shaik, was thrown in jail for corruption in 2005, then president Thabo Mbeki removed Zuma from the vice presidency of the Republic.

Zuma’s trial in 2006 for sexual abuse lasted several months further blackening his name.
The Zulus have a different interpretation.

There was bad blood between Mbeki and Zuma partly because Mbeki took liberties (assumed to be of a sexual nature) with Nkosazana Zuma (Zuma’s wife) who was foreign minister then. Mbeki, who saw himself as a philosopher king, despised Zuma, whose formal education is, but a bare thread.

Zuma, married to four wives and with 20 children, claims to have a philosophy.

This is the heart of the contention, that Afrocentric leaders are incapable of appreciating a constitutional form of government, which places limits on the ruler. That these nepotistic politicians serve their families and friends comes with the territory.

State of Capture is a report by the Public Protector on the relationship between Zuma, son Duduzane and three Indian migrants, the Guptas. Within a short time, the Gupta brothers acquired a bank, a television station and an investment instrument. It is their non-transparent financial transactions that have provoked a crisis of confidence in the country itself.

The Public Protector concluded that their influence on the Zuma family amounts to a stranglehold and that affairs of State are filtered through this nefarious family first, by-passing State institutions and the ANC.

One example will suffice. Vytjie Mentor claimed that she was offered a job by the Guptas on condition she cancelled the South African Airways (SAA) flights to India.

This story explains why Nick Bezuidenhout (35) a whiz kid at SAA was forced to leave and also why the parastatal engaged in unprofitable ventures.

SAA’s collaboration with Lufthansa is profitable to the Germans, but drains passengers away from SAA.

A Charlotte-Johannesburg ticket bought through SAA costs US$1 000 more than one bought through Lufthansa. As a result, a SAA 350-seat 747 Boeing from Munich to Johannesburg had less than 100 passengers.

The Public Protector cites examples of similar style management at the electricity commission (Eskom) where Gupta Teget officials are in an incestuous relationship with Eskom managers.

The narrative surrounding the management of South African parastatals reads like an old story to Zimbabweans. Eskom is like ZESA Holdings. SAA is like Air Zimbabwe. South African Railways is like the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ).

Let us start by sending a girlfriend or a relative to such and such parastatal. Just for the heck of it, we can send another relative of a chef to ZESA. At NRZ, the board chairperson, Alvord Mabhena is informed by the national radio that he has been replaced by someone else.
I woke up in Munich. It was all a dream.