Saturday, May 31, 2008

South Africa: Coffee Break is Over

The rest of Africa is really, really pissed off at black South Africans.

This article is from an Ugandan.

The South African black is a breed apart as they are finding out for themselves.

Maybe that apartheid thing was not totally wrong after all and, as a first - note the date and time on your calendar - whites are not being blamed and neither is apartheid.


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We have always known South African black people to be even more discriminatory than the whites who rode roughshod over them during apartheid. We just didn't think they'd go this far- beating and killing fellow blacks from other countries, blaming them for their economic woes.

You are tempted to think the calm they have enjoyed between 1990-2008 was simply a coffee break which is now over, and normal service has resumed: discrimination and violence.

Clearly, the pain they suffered during the apartheid era didn't teach them that it is primitive to discriminate against others, not to mention killing them. It's odd and outrageous that the people we sympathised and identified with and helped in so many ways during their time of tribulation are now turning against us just because they now have the whip hand.

It shows their weakness as a people- never willing to take responsibility for their problems, constantly cutting themselves out as the kings of excuses. First they blamed apartheid, now they blame foreigners. Soon they will blame the weather, wildlife, globalisation and possibly the Most High.

But it also exposes the weakness of South African President Mbeki- a decent, down to earth intellectual who is too timid and tender to withstand the vagaries of the Byzantine politics of the Dark Continent.

In February 2004, when Libya (Muammar Gadaffi) and Nigeria (Olusegun Obasanjo) opposed the political aspect of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) as interference into domestic affairs, Mbeki who was looked up to as the "Head Prefect" among African leaders shrugged and said it was alright (never mind how stupid the whole idea was).

It was not until intense pressure from Canada's Jean Chretien, then President of the G8 that Mbeki caved in and had political governance included in the areas for review.

And now when his own country is in chaos, Mbeki's leadership has been weighed and found wanting. Mbeki is arguably a small fellow in a high place and is only lent size and prominence by the fact that he heads (rather than leads) Africa's most prosperous economy.

Even his rise to domestic leadership was largely because he was backed by a strong party- the African National Congress (ANC). Were Mbeki presiding over a small banana republic of no strategic importance to the West, in all likelihood he'd be obscure and inconsequential, and on demand for his intellectualism at academic fora, rather than big time summits with the global big boys.

It clearly illuminates the problem of putting a small man in a big office. At first we judged him rather unfairly - stepping into the shoes of the great man Nelson Mandela. Many uncharitably declared that he was not even worthy to try them on for size. Now their verdicts are being vindicated by none other than the man himself.

However, let's broaden the issue and look at it from an African perspective. Chaos in Zimbabwe comes in part because President Mugabe is too strong and the institutions weak; for South Africa the chaos is in part because although the institutions are reasonably strong, Mbeki is too weak- two extremes which call for Africa to look for a middle ground that breeds strong institutions with reasonably strong and decisive leaders.

Critically, the chaos in S. Africa, Kenya, Zimbabwe, etc shows that any attempts to form a United States of Africa now is silly. If we can't control Africa at micro level, we can't do it at macro level- certainly not with the current array of leaders that reads like an inventory of the dysfunctional.

Lastly, if we are really serious people in a global village, South Africa's credentials to host the World Cup have effectively been lost. The world that for the last few months has been pelting China for its brutality in Tibet and threatening to boycott the Olympics, should now serve the same treatment to South Africa- it's time to use sports as a tool for shaping politics and social conscience in the right direction all over the world.

The Chinese have no business hosting the Olympics. And South Africa, a nation that is killing foreigners, has no business hosting the biggest sports event in the world.

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