Tafi Mhaka: No country is an island. Mnangagwa, Zanu-PF must emulate Ramaphosa, ANC playbook
By Tafi Mhaka
President Cyril Ramaphosa’s arrival at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport on Monday night for a Zimbabwe-South Africa Bi-National Commission (BNC) meeting marked the landing of a timely, diplomatic summation of Zimbabwe’s teeming economic and political problems. While Zimbabwe is a failed socialist state, South Africa has developed into a thriving synthesis of everything Zimbabwe is not.
Its fledgling democracy has been fortified by fiercely liberal understandings, expressions and contestations of democratic, legal, economic and human rights. This has been fully espoused by the Marikana Massacre, the #FeesMustFall movement, the Life Healthcare Esidimeni Scandal and investigations into allegations of big money corruption at state-owned firms like Eskom and Transnet.
The above mentioned calamities prompted Ramaphosa, during an interview at the 2019 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, to describe former president Jacob Zuma’s dramatic tenure as ‘nine wasted years’.
Seething with anger Zuma hit back at his former deputy president claiming his administration had, between May 2009 and February 2018, introduced free tertiary education, rolled out HIV/Aids treatment programmes, subsidised housing for the poor, increased access to electricity, sanitation and piped water, broadened the social grants programme to 17 million people and expanded school nutrition programmes in both primary and secondary schools.
These developments, by Zimbabwe’s humble, pitiful and waning service delivery standards under former president Robert Mugabe, would have been extraordinarily welcome during a topsy-turvy time. Nevertheless, despite extreme income inequality and high levels of crime, corruption and poverty, South Africa, by African standards, boasts a very good healthcare system, a strong economy and sound democratic institutions and processes.
The Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture and Zuma’s corruption trial both demonstrate a firm determination to fight corruption and promote the rule of law. Crucially, South Africa’s stable democracy is a sincere reflection of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party’s pragmatic political trajectory.
Although it has long ruled as part of a tripartite alliance comprising the Congress of South African Trade Unions and the South African Communist Party, the ANC has debated at length, but not implemented, a raft of populist ideas and policies that might disturb South Africa’s economic stability and turn it into a potentially larger tale of Zimbabwe’s failing state.
The ANC has taken a cautious approach to expedited land reform and instituted extensive consultations on mooted plans to amend Section 25 of the Constitution and introduce Zimbabwe-style land expropriation without compensation.
And as the Democratic Alliance (DA) and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party threaten its parliamentary majority support, the ANC hasn’t resorted to whipping up nationalist sentiments, orchestrating violence or banking on divisive identity-based politics to win general elections.
Zanu-PF must dump impoverished ideology, stop begging
This week’s BNC meeting simply added up to Harare begging Pretoria for money as Zimbabwe and Zanu-PF’s fortunes continually flounder. The former liberation party Herbert Chitepo left behind on March 18, 1975 is still trumping Marxist-Leninist mumbo jumbo as instrumental to Zimbabwe becoming a rich and sustainable modern state. However, the painful truth is, Zanu-PF has dismally failed to establish an economically and socially productive democracy like South Africa’s ANC has.
To keep it simple, the ANC’s tremendous ability to regularly hold free and fair election and promote human rights and media freedoms, and its profound ability to subordinate both far left and far right wing extremist ideologies in South Africa at the polls, has worked economic and social wonders since Nelson Mandela’s inauguration on May 10, 1994.
Yet Zanu-PF has been at war with imaginary adversaries and made-up agendas since Bob Marley and the Wailers performed at Rufaro Stadium on April 18, 1980. Meanwhile, the ANC hasn’t been fazed by democracy’s potential. It hasn’t expended profuse amounts of money, time and energy on building political indoctrination centres, such as Zanu-PF’s Herbert Chitepo School of Ideology, as a means to brainwashing unemployed, broke and vulnerable youths.
The futility of unilateralism
No country is an island. ANC leaders have long avoided establishing repressive policies that cause universal condemnation and needless disagreements with world powers. Call it classical realpolitik. It’s an ugly but indispensable feature of global politics that Zanu-PF has repeatedly failed to value.
As things stand, Botswana and South Africa have offered Zimbabwe limited economic support. Yet a substantial economic resurgence remains doubtful if US sanctions remain intact. It is time for Zanu-PF to reinvent itself and to develop fresh policies and progressive leaders that can work in sync with today’s geopolitical demands and economic realities. The ANC is burdened by the very same historical and contemporary problems as Zanu-PF but it hasn’t shunned liberal democracy and destroyed the people’s revolution.
Here’s a distressing case in point: As Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals’ paediatrics head Dr Azza Mashumba this week tearfully pleaded for authorities to provide her facilities with basic medical resources in Harare, across the Limpopo River, Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Tshwane successfully completed the world’s first ever middle ear transplant, using 3D-printed middle ear bones, through a technique developed by Professor Mashudu Tshifularo at the University of Pretoria’s faculty of health.
The less said about our painfully senseless and fatally destructive failures at Parirenyatwa Hospital and South Africa’s world-leading success this week, the better. The social and economic benefits of sensible democratic actions speak louder than the unproductive results of a bankrupted socialist ideology.