Recently, I made presentations on behalf of AfriForum at two public hearings on the proposed amendment of section 25 of the Constitution: in Westonaria in Gauteng and in Jansenville in rural Eastern Cape.
Although much the same kind of arguments were heard at both venues, there were considerable differences in style, content and tone. In Westonaria, EFF members were in the majority and extremely rowdy. They had the initiative and made things difficult for anyone (including myself) opposing the amendment. Almost every speaker chanted Afro-nationalist slogans (such as “Africa for the Africans!”). And they made it quite clear that Africa belongs to black people alone and that white people (and indeed every other ethnic minority) should have no rights in South Africa or elsewhere on the continent. It was brash, insane, intolerant and boisterous political theatre.
In Jansenville it was quite different. EFF members were almost nowhere to be seen, proceedings ran smoothly and I gave my presentation in Afrikaans (in Westonaria the EFF jeered the solitary Afrikaans contribution and the process of speaking was at times chaotic).
Nevertheless, in my contribution I emphasised that if land on its own did equal wealth (as one speaker after the other in Westonaria tried to make us believe), then Africa with its vast land mass and abundance of fertile soil would have been one of the richest continents on the planet. But it’s not. In fact, it is by far the poorest continent, and I argued that this was the result of bad decisions and harmful policies (such as expropriation without compensation).
At Jansenville I was applauded when I said this; in Westonaria it was contemptuously – but also with a measure of implicit recognition – scoffed at by the EFF. Unfortunately for them, this is a fact they cannot deny.
The ANC’s decision to support the amendment enabling expropriation without compensation have confounded many organisations and analysts. But it need not be the case. It is simply a reflection of the draconic behaviour that obtains today in the Southern African region and elsewhere in Africa.
The diplomacy of approval
Following the torment of the first three decades after decolonisation (with the 80s being a singular low point), Africa during the 90’s and early 2000s showed promising signs of democratisation, good governance and economic growth. But alas, this did not continue and today Africa is still the most unfree and poorest continent on the face of the earth. Don’t be fooled by ritualistic elections that are invariably marred by serious irregularities.
The Institute of Race Relations (IRR) recently contributed a strong and necessary dose of soberness to the land debate. They contended that the ANC was not looking at Zanu-PF with horror, but rather with admiration for still being in power after nearly 40 years. The same can be said of other liberation movements in Africa, such as FRELIMO in Mozambique, MPLA in Angola and SWAPO in Namibia. All of them have been governing for decades, but face huge challenges and are desperately grasping at straws. For this very reason they recently tried to implement positive cosmetic changes or at least paid lip service to it, but their actions prove the opposite.
Changes to the executive in Southern Africa have come about only within the governing party. Cyril Ramaphosa replaced Jacob Zuma in South Africa, Emmerson Mnangagwa replaced Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, Hage Geingob replaced Hifekepunye Pohamba in Namibia, Felipe Nyusi replaced Armando Guebeza in Mozambique and João Lourenco succeeded Eduardo dos Santos in Angola. And so the farce of renewal and political pluralism is perpetuated, whilst real change remains a chimera.
Zimbabwe is a notorious recent example of this. The election in that country in July was characterised by intimidation, large-scale irregularities regarding the voters’ roll and the use of state resources to benefit Zanu-PF. International observers were graciously invited and the African Union (AU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) were happy with the way the election was run. The European Union (EU) and American observers were far less impressed.
A government could still tamper with voters’ rolls, but these days they can hardly justify and conceal that opposition supporters are being assaulted and murdered. Prior to the election, Mnangagwa already made dubious moves, such as appointing generals and notorious Zanu-PF veterans to his cabinet, while also welcoming back the politically emasculated white farmers who pose no threat to his power.
Instead of condemning the attacks and murders (even if only obliquely), the SADC and African leaders simply remained silent or even defended this behaviour. Geingob, who is facing corruption charges in Europe, fulminated against the West for their perceived approach towards Africa. According to him, demands are made to Africa that are not expected of other places. It is also ridiculous that the US only has two parties that adhere to virtually the same philosophy and that one cannot vote for communists in America, according to Geingob.
Tanzania’s governing party slammed America because the latter merely expressed concern about recent by-elections. According to them, Tanzania is a sovereign state that will not be intimidated. In Mali, thousands of opposition supporters demonstrated because of alleged irregularities in the presidential election. The election in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) will be nothing more than a confirmation of the governing party’s power – in spite of the dictatorial President Joseph Kabila indicating that he would not be running again.
Africa for the tyrants!
The philosophy and practical effect of the slogan “Africa for the Africans” and the fact that Africa has been setting very low standards for itself for decades, go to the root of Africa’s long-lasting misery. Instead of becoming “Africa for the Africans”, this notional slogan gave cover and credence to its real-life manifestation: “Africa for the tyrants”. African leaders have obstinately clung to power – in many instances behind the veil of free and just elections – and fended off external interference without their populations ever being able to taste the post-colonial fruits. Please read Paul Kenyon’s Dictatorland: The Men Who Stole Africa for the latest historic iteration of this irrefutable truth.
And if every leader ultimately does this, nobody can point fingers or act against injustice elsewhere on the continent. This is why there are no voices coming out of Africa about expropriation without compensation and why Ramaphosa does not have to fear any backlash emanating from the continent.
Dr Eugene Brink is Strategic Advisor for Community Affairs at AfriForum.