On Saturday, one of our columnists pointed out that as Zimbabweans, we were bound to take interest in what happens in South Africa — our neighbour on the other side of the Limpopo River.
The columnist said, “we cannot wash our hands when it comes to its existential fate” — and that is essentially true given Zimbabwe’s proximity by way of geography, the economy and indeed socially.
Zimbabweans, like many Africans home and abroad are watching closely what is happening in South Africa and as pointed out by the columnist, this is because “its political discourse . . . implies a generic framing of blacks, of Africans, their struggles and African independence.”
Events of the past few weeks in South Africa have captured our imagination as the leader of the country and ruling party, President Jacob Zuma, has had to navigate a political minefield that saw him make crucial changes to his Cabinet, all to a ringing political and economic tsunami.
The reaction was emphatic: from open dissent manifest in senior ruling ANC figures publicly disagreeing with the President, to protest marches that took place across the country on Friday. The ANC as a party has largely stood by its President. But, as we have observed, a pattern has been quick to emerge.
The issue of South Africa is now in black and white: not only have the stakes grown politically as President Zuma grapples with his foes internally and externally; it has also become an issue of race as we saw last Friday’s marches being dominated by pervasive white elements that openly expressed disdain over a black President, a liberation movement and what it seeks to achieve via the ambit of radical economic transformation.
Placards were printed and displayed that showed open racism, including depicting blacks as baboons, and soon, as is now galvanising, South Africa was jerked into consciousness of a race dynamic underlying the political and economic drama playing out in the country.
As we report elsewhere in this issue, President Zuma, has also woken up to this fact and his remarks at the memorial of Chris Hani yesterday are instructive.
He noted that the, “racist onslaught has become more direct and is no longer hidden as was the case in the early years of our constitutional democratic order” and that racists no longer fear being caught or exposed.
All this perhaps points to the fact that the latest imbroglio has uncannily opened South Africa to fundamental issues that may have remained latent but festering.
Now we are seeing a section of society openly and unashamedly expressing a view that blacks should not rule the country and that they are no more than primates. Yes, during Friday’s marches some white protesters even held out bananas, a mock act of racism implying that blacks are monkeys.
It has not been lost to the discerning observer that while President Zuma has been made the fall guy, the real attack is on the ruling ANC and black government of the liberation.
It is also not lost to us that while the majority of South Africa roots for the ANC — albeit in diminishing margins — giving it about 60 percent of the vote in the last elections, a certain clique that controls the economy and markets have sought to undermine the will of the majority and usurp their power.
The largely white controlled media are part of this nexus. For indeed if the Executive, led by President Zuma, tries to shape policy and adopt a certain world-view and it faces hostility from the market, that points to a subversion and usurpation of power.
We have seen these contrivances around markets whenever President Zuma has made certain political moves that white monopoly capital does not approve of.
All this presents a very interesting prospect.
In fact, South Africa stands at an historical moment — which many may never have imagined. How this historical question is resolved will have a profound effect that will ripple across the world.
This is why we, too, become interested in what happens in South Africa.