Africa’s just one big joke to the world


By Tinyiko Maluleke

At the bottom of the pile of Thabo Mbeki’s speeches published in the book titled Africa: The time has come, is a speech that has haunted me for two decades. It is not the beautifully crafted I am an African speech. And no, it is not the speech about South Africa being a country of two nations. Nor is it Mbeki’s brilliant farewell speech on the occasion of Madiba’s retirement from Parliament. Rather, it is a brief, little-known and seldom invoked speech which Mbeki made in 1998 titled Stop the Laughter.

He delivered it in Swakopmund, one of the most scenic settings in the Southern hemisphere, home to an indomitable people, the Herero and the Nama.

Bewitched by the magnificence of that Namibian coastal city where sea, desert and sky embrace, Mbeki delivered one of his best speeches, to my mind.

Maybe he was stirred by the knowledge of the violent colonial past of that beautiful place, to make a speech that was bitter and sweet.

And yet it is written in elegant prose, sprinkled with fragments of humour, punctuated with dazzling pearls of wisdom and delivered with the proverbial sting in the tail.

Perhaps by way of contrast, Mbeki chose to construct his speech around the the story of the 2000 or so inhabitants of Dead Man’s Creek, Mississippi, US. Among the citizens was one Stevie Wonder, the only black man in town.

With no access to the most basic forms of entertainment and little connection to the rest of the world, the boring lives of the inhabitants of Dead Man’s Creek, revolved around the “nightly” television news. When they heard on the news one day that President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda was preaching the gospel of African renewal, they said “Hallelujah!” because “they would no longer have to contribute some of their personal money to famine relief in the African Republic of Kalakuta”.

And Stevie Wonder said “Amen”, for the welcome respite from being called upon daily to explain embarrassing African experiences he knew nothing about.

But soon enough, the news from Africa reverted to the usual doom and gloom. One day it was about the Somalian relapse from modernity back to feudalism. Then the familiar stories of famine and war in Africa became regular again.

Then came the story of how one Gnassingbé Eyadéma stole the 1998 elections in Togo – a country he ruled from 1967 until he died in 2005.

Museveni is alive, so he is still president of Uganda, 31 years later. Seemingly, Paul Kagame intends to remain president of Rwanda, as long as he lives.

And the citizens of Dead Man’s Creek started to laugh saying: “African politicians must be the best comedians in the world.”

Stung by that scornful laughter, Mbeki begged his fellow African leaders saying: “Let us stop the laughter.”

But dear Mr Mbeki, I have news for you. The mocking laughter has returned, louder and bolder. It is no longer Dead Man’s Creek alone that is laughing. Villagers in the backyards of China are laughing at, and joking about, Africa. The entire world is in stitches over our fantastic ability to wound ourselves.

They see our leaders, including Mbeki, angrily frothing at the mouth about the blunt and punitive justice of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Yet all over Africa, state institutions are either being destroyed or non-existent. Instead, crooked individuals, family dynasties and cronies are consolidating their power.

Do we think these family dynasties will either enable the emergence of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights, the ICC equivalent for Africa? How many Bashirs, Laurent Gbagbos, Joseph Kabilas and Yahya Jammehs must we tolerate and appease and for how long? What’s wrong with simply asking for leaders who will respect the will and lives of the people they lead?

Our country, South Africa, has become the laughing stock of the world again. In fact, I am not sure if the laughter ever stopped. Not even during the Mbeki presidency.

After all, is it not Mbeki who gave us president Jacob Zuma?

The inept and embarrassing attempt to pull South Africa out of the Rome Statute must be one big joke in Dead Man’s Creek.

Last week when the ICC ruled that as a signatory, South Africa was obliged to arrest Omar al-Bashir, which South Africa ought to have known, they must have been rolling on the wooden floors with laughter.

All indications are that if South Africa needed the ICC before, you can be sure we will need it soon – what with the emasculation and deligitimisation of key state institutions! Key instruments of the criminal justice system such as the former Scorpions, the Hawks, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the Independent Police Investigative Directorate have been under siege for a long time with a view to turn them into mere tools in the hands of politicians.

We have seen state-owned enterprises (SOEs) being systematically turned into the cash cows of “the family” and its strategic allies. Why should the world not deride us?

When it emerged that Public Protector advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane had decided to oppose President Zuma’s application to set aside the state capture remedial actions of her predecessor, a television network issued a screaming headline, saying: “Breaking news, Mkhwebane criticises Zuma.” Ought this not to be the normal, though not the only, job of the public protector? Clearly there is growing desperation nationally, for the incumbent public protector to demonstrate her independence.

Across the land, there is a palpable fear that, as well as the National Treasury and the SOEs, the office of the public protector might be in danger of being “Guptaed”. When the public protector finally criticised the president, all the people said: “Amen! Hallelujah!”

We fear that the repeated jibes at the judiciary by the some of our senior political leaders, as well as the recent burglaries at the offices of the Hawks, the NPA and the chief justice might be part of a planned, albeit sinister, effort to intimidate and weaken the crucial institutions.

At the recent ANC policy conference, the ANC reminded me of my grandmother, who was nearly the same age as the party when the gods called her.

She would look everywhere for the container in which she kept her tobacco, to the point of dispatching us kids to help with the search everywhere. And all the while, she was absent-mindedly holding it in her hand.

Similarly, ANC policy conference delegates huffed and puffed about everything else, looked and searched everywhere, except whence their problems emanated – the absence of a moral and ethical leadership at the highest level of the party.

When the Gupta wedding Airbus A330-200 plane landed at Waterkloof Airbase in 2013, we resented the ruthless audacity of violating a national key point in that way. We were disgusted by the opulence of a luxury motorcade that ferried the family and their guests to Sun City, under the watch and guidance of our police.

It was nauseating.

To add insult to injury, we have recently learnt the South African taxpayer might have paid for it all, including the lavish wedding.

Surely, we deserve to be laughed at.

* Maluleke is a professor at the University of Pretoria and an extraordinary professor at the University of South Africa. He writes in his personal capacity. Twitter handle – @ProfTinyiko.

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    How popular is my Zanu Pf?
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    How popular are our Bond notes, I can only assume printed to, surely, replace the $15b gone missing?
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    How popular are we when our vendors are beaten up for their measly $5 bounty of selling bangles, bananas and cheap Chinese electronics?
    Just how popular are unregistered routine police beatings and our infamous Riot Squad?
    How popular are we when our dear Chinese friends import their own labour, piffle the State resources and build us second-rate everythings? I believe there is a term: zhing zhong
    How popular are we when commuters in 2017!! still sit “garai 4, 4″ in public death trap combis?
    How popular are we when food shortages, petrol shortages are norm?
    How popular are we when our elderly walk 20+ kms to access, well only aspirins or panadols for serious health concerns?
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    How popular are we when lakeish potholes from hell are like driving in a video game for daily motorists?
    How popular are our ‘spot-checks’ & roadblocks phenomena? Really just how popular are they? Can someone find out.
    How popular are we when food prices are sky high, understocked and usually only available at Choppies?
    How popular are we when we legislate astronomical mobile phone rates to bloodsuck the masses?
    Exactly How happy are our local tobacco farmers of the treatment they got for this years 2017 commerce of the leaf?
    How popular are we when we impose ‘priority lists’ from RBZ and yet we can buy hundreds of luxury vehicles as a party in this national crisis time? I shudder to imagine how long we queue in cancerous bank-lines to access the $20 per day withdrawals to buy even one $45 000 car?
    How popular are we when City Council no longer has urban public transport systems ie buses and rail running in city areas?
    How popular are we when our capital city looks from an aerial view like one gross market place, overcrowded, dirty and vulgar disrespect for any cbd zones? First Street is now a sub-par flea market?
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    How popular are we when our elite administrators eventually own all the best farms, multiple properties and the land distribution exercise is now a myth for the everyday man?
    How popular are Executives salaries & perks in our State institutions?
    How popular is our management of Sports and the Arts in our country?
    How popular is our handling of the incarceration of our own brothers and sisters in these national jails?
    How popular are the overstaffed police and army?
    Just How popular are our Chinese benefactors?
    Are All State tenders are theirs, and the ordinary civilian aspirant has no chance to compete for the foreseeable millennia to come, how popular is this?
    How popular and effective would other global would-be benefactors be, apart from the Chinese?
    How popular are we when our police has extortion spot-checked all liquid currency from defenceless motorists using some of the planets worst road systems, and yet we ask where has all the money gone?
    How popular are we in our service delivery, healthcare and slums; shacks zones all over Zim?
    How popular are we in this cash crisis, when $15 billion liquidity vanishes? How popular are the Banks, and how strange is it that local Banks deplete deposits, rather than pay dividend interest on deposits they hold of the public, exactly how popular is that?
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    Well, that’s simple. Very Popular.

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  • “A poem by a Zanu Pfist to the core:

    How Popular are We??

    How popular is my Zanu Pf?
    How popular are we when factionalism is the new political ideology? Does it work for us or help? How popular is this self nomineering and fidgeting phenomena gripping us all?
    How popular is our present-day Zimbabwe?
    How popular are we when $20 is the maximum limit bi-daily withdrawal of cash from an individuals hard-worked for deposits?
    How popular are we when ATM’s are no longer ATM’s but a cobwebbed waste of electricity?
    How popular are we as Zimbabweans are the most educated unemployed mass in Africa?
    How popular are our shenanigans of war vets say this, politiburo that, gamatox this, lacoste that, g40 etc etc?
    How popular are we when Zimbabwe is the most policed country on earth per square kilometre? From whom are we policing our popular voters?
    How popular are we when public hospitals are derelict, medicine-less, and fronted by foul-mouthed nurses and doctors?
    How popular are we when Chishawasha Hills is the most lavish square miles of residency in Africa? Where are those lucky residents getting the money from to build these monstrosities? From the same $20 daily limit system (and queue kkk)?
    How popular are we when our youth have all become diasporans, leaving a country of old hags and die-hard or passportless ones?
    How popular are we when our $15 billion goes ‘missing’ into thin air, yet let our local bravo lads CID catch you having stolen $500 from work?
    How popular are our Bond notes, I can only assume printed to, surely, replace the $15b gone missing?
    How popular is our ZBC, everyones favourite tv station?
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    How popular are we when our dear Chinese friends import their own labour, piffle the State resources and build us second-rate everythings? I believe there is a term: zhing zhong
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    How popular are we when food shortages, petrol shortages are norm?
    How popular are we when our elderly walk 20+ kms to access, well only aspirins or panadols for serious health concerns?
    How popular and safe is our City Council fed water, IF its available?
    How popular are we when rumours are that goats can pay school fees?
    How popular are we when lakeish potholes from hell are like driving in a video game for daily motorists?
    How popular are our ‘spot-checks’ & roadblocks phenomena? Really just how popular are they? Can someone find out.
    How popular are we when food prices are sky high, understocked and usually only available at Choppies?
    How popular are we when we legislate astronomical mobile phone rates to bloodsuck the masses?
    Exactly How happy are our local tobacco farmers of the treatment they got for this years 2017 commerce of the leaf?
    How popular are we when we impose ‘priority lists’ from RBZ and yet we can buy hundreds of luxury vehicles as a party in this national crisis time? I shudder to imagine how long we queue in cancerous bank-lines to access the $20 per day withdrawals to buy even one $45 000 car?
    How popular are we when City Council no longer has urban public transport systems ie buses and rail running in city areas?
    How popular are we when our capital city looks from an aerial view like one gross market place, overcrowded, dirty and vulgar disrespect for any cbd zones? First Street is now a sub-par flea market?
    How popular are we when Zimbos now prefer to live, And die in foreign states, and actually call it a ‘Lifestyle’?
    How popular are we when our elite administrators eventually own all the best farms, multiple properties and the land distribution exercise is now a myth for the everyday man?
    How popular are Executives salaries & perks in our State institutions?
    How popular is our management of Sports and the Arts in our country?
    How popular is our handling of the incarceration of our own brothers and sisters in these national jails?
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    Just How popular are our Chinese benefactors?
    Are All State tenders are theirs, and the ordinary civilian aspirant has no chance to compete for the foreseeable millennia to come, how popular is this?
    How popular and effective would other global would-be benefactors be, apart from the Chinese?
    How popular are we when our police has extortion spot-checked all liquid currency from defenceless motorists using some of the planets worst road systems, and yet we ask where has all the money gone?
    How popular are we in our service delivery, healthcare and slums; shacks zones all over Zim?
    How popular are we in this cash crisis, when $15 billion liquidity vanishes? How popular are the Banks, and how strange is it that local Banks deplete deposits, rather than pay dividend interest on deposits they hold of the public, exactly how popular is that?
    How popular are we when some might frogmarch villagers to rallies, use food aid as voting bait?
    How popular is turning KIne 300 & 400 in Harare into present day church rental buildings, effectively killing off the glorious heydays of Milky Lane, the Kine’s movies on Saturdays for the clean bathed and well-dressed youth, Circus nightclub, a clean Lake Chivero of yesteryear family weekend getaway braais, Turtles Club, Andy Brown live at the Oasis, the Blacks on zbc live playing great tennis, with great commentary and tv work, Simon Parkinson on radio, Peter Jones, Hitman, and legendary Dennis Wilson?
    Finally, How popular are we when we say we have created 3.3million informal, unmortgage-able citizen jobs?

    Well, that’s simple. Very Popular.

    So popular as to win yet another ‘landslide’ victory in 2018 for a job well done.”
    – Dzimba Dzemabwe novel, author Trystone Chandochawundura

  • A simple reminder to those who believe that by sacrifice you own the PEOPLE. YOU DO NOT.

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