Monday, May 26, 2008

Are we at the end of the Rainbow?

It’s sad to see the end of a dream but it looks like that’s what we are witnessing again or at least the beginning of the end. Are we getting closer to the failure of the so called Rainbow Coalition? Shortly after the end of apartheid I told a close friend that I believed South Africa would last as an African symbol of reconciliation and hope for about 10 years before going the way of the former Rhodesia now called Zimbabwe which in 1994 was slipping fast into despair after the promise of the end of white rule in 1980.

After winning an election against Ian Smith, Robert Mugabe started by cooperating with Smith’s party and agreed that white rights would be protected and that the country would continue to prosper but of course that didn’t last and by the mid 80’s to protect his own status Mugabe began a campaign to co-opt or kill off his former allies and solidify his power base through fear and intimidation. With that completed he then turned his attention to white businessman and farmers imposing harsh restrictions on ownership and expansion. He also began to clamp down on the countries banking laws specifically limiting the amount of funds that could be transferred out of the country while also ordering the nationalization of most industries. All of this led to resentment and fear amongst the white community and many left for South Africa but in doing so quickened the pace of decline for Zimbabwe. Instead of embracing those who were left behind Mugabe continue his efforts to destroy what was once called the breadbasket of Africa, by funding numerous wars in neighboring countries while also further ostracizing white farmers who were the nation’s biggest income earners and employers.

The nation went from have to have not almost overnight with income dropping off, huge debt and tourism also falling off but it only got worse and the few remaining white owned farms were then seized and handed over to “war veterans” who came home expecting a pension as promised and received nothing. Mugabe if nothing else is a survivor and quickly realized that to stay in power meant appeasing the unemployed masses and using a sacrificial lamb in the process namely the few white farmers still left. Today we have 80% unemployment, unimaginable poverty and inflation that’s so out of control a new 500 million dollar note was just printed (the equivalent of USD$2.00) so citizens don’t have to use a wheel barrel to buy bread, that is if any is to be found for sale. The promise of Zimbabwe didn’t last 10 yrs after Robert Mugabe came to power and it continues to rot.

This is what I based my prediction on but I was wrong in my sense of timing. I never could have imagined just how powerful Nelson Mandela would be, his sheer will power and gentleness took the country by storm and the rainbow coalition was formed. White’s who supported apartheid wouldn’t be strung up and or given long jail sentences they could simply appear before the truth commission and that was that. The former President wasn’t tried for crimes against humanity or against the state but was allowed to remain in parliament until he retired. It all seemed possible but as Mandela stepped aside due to age and ill health you could almost hear the clock begin the countdown to failure.

Slowly laws were passed forcing white businessman to take on black partners or give up 50% of their business interests. White farmers were told they would have to share their land and the state would set up a commission to determine the land’s value. Larger businesses had to meet quotas for black supervisors and managers regardless of competency or face fines, while colleges and universities were also forced to accept black students whose marks would not normally meet the entry standards. Now while some whites in those early days were resentful there were also a large majority that agreed with the policy’s and believed in the ideals of the rainbow coalition hoping that South Africa would remain the wealthiest country in Africa and in fact harnessing its better educated majority black population grow in stature thereby benefiting every citizen.
What the reality of it all was a huge increase in violent crime, mainly targeting working blacks. The unemployment rate soared in the black community and in the townships things only got worse as the services promised were not delivered in the numbers needed. Businesses that once flourished were slowing failing as unqualified managers were running them into the ground and increasingly the white community was starting to move their money offshore and also their children. Doctors were immigrating to Canada, Australian and Britain as fast as they could while many other much needed professionals were also looking for a new place to call home but there was still hope until recently.

2005 brought the first case of a white farmer to take what he considered to be an unfair settlement for the farmland he was forced to sell to the courts for appeal. He was turned down and he was given 60 days to accept the offer or his land would be seized. This sent shockwaves through the white farming community many of whom had come from Zimbabwe but fortunately the decision was overturned by a higher court which ordered a mediated settlement. For the white farmers it was a sign and many began to immigrate to Canada and Australia with offers to farm there.

Since then South Africa has continued its economic slide continuing to slip in the worlds standings with each passing year. Crime continues to rise and corruption is finding its way into every facet of business and everyday life and now we have riots against foreign workers. Beginning on 11 May with attacks against Zimbabwean workers and growing to include the large Malawian population and the small Somali population these attacks are brutal and reminiscent of the genocide in Rwanda where groups of people would descend upon a poor soul and begin to beat him or her to death, the only thing missing is the machete’s but the most alarming thing about the uprisings is the rhetoric coming out of the government.

The director general of South Africa's National Intelligence Agency, Manala Manzini, said on Thursday that the attacks were unleashed by movements that supported the apartheid government.

Mr. Manzini's comments were echoed by the minister of intelligence, Ronnie Kasrils, who said there were groups that had what he called their own political agenda.
"There was organization... we have names of people who called meetings," he said.

The secretary general of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), Kgalema Motlanthe, has said that many of the immigrants were able to get jobs in South Africa because they were better qualified than locals, whose education was disrupted by apartheid.

Now this is some scary rhetoric coming out of the current government, in essence blaming white’s who supported apartheid and somehow justifying violence against foreign workers due to a lack of education based on a system that ended 14 years ago?

This was not the dream of Nelson Mandela where black South Africans wouldn’t blame whites but would embrace them and move together towards one united great South Africa but it would appear that with Mr. Mandela’s era over all that is to be forgotten and therefore I believe the clock is ticking and the countdown to South Africa becoming the next Zimbabwe is well underway. Perhaps I am wrong, I hope I am wrong but all the signs are there unless God gives us another Nelson Mandela and soon.


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