Mugabe and Malema the new heroes of Africa? Really?By NINA MBABAZI RUKIKAIRE | Tuesday, November 22 2011 at 10:52
It is always interesting getting feedback from the readers on topics that we columnists write about. Last week’s topic in particular regarding Julius Malema’s indiscipline and the African National Congress’ decision to suspend him seems to have brought out right-wing extremism from readers. The radicalisation of an internet communicating generation was quite puzzling to read.
The two main responses being that all African governments have failed to deliver on Independence dreams and aspirations, and that in the midst of all the suffering on the continent inflicted by “epileptic governments” - to use the readers words - Africa needs to take a stand now so that it can emerge stronger. I was flabbergasted to read that in the opinion of some readers, Robert Mugabe and Julius Malema remain the last standing heroes in Africa.
As a continent, we have several handicaps to achieving our aspirations of a first world continent. The first being the false borders and states created which brought together many ethnic groupings that were not ready to come together politically. Additionally, countries suffered massive land grabbing especially Zimbabwe, Kenya and South Africa, to mention a few.
It is against this backdrop that President Mugabe’s heroics are measured on his decision to give black Africans their land. While we can all understand the logic behind Mugabe’s decision to return the land, I don’t quite understand how a man who has singlehandedly wrecked an entire economy and at one point caused 95 per cent unemployment in his country can be considered a hero.
Zimbabwe is a blessed nation with capacity to have developed beyond its neighbour South Africa. The argument that Zimbabwe shows that Africa has something to learn because their economy is growing due to regional trade and so we can disregard the global economy is false.
Better working conditions
South Africa, which is highly dependent on the global economy, is Zimbabwe’s main trade partner and without that external link, Zimbabwe would not be able to grow at all. I would rather think that what the readers are advocating for is equality in land ownership/development and the refusal by governments to allow 1 per cent of the population to control 84 per cent of the land as was the case in Zimbabwe.
With regard to Malema, in 1944 Lembede, Tambo, Sisulu, Mandela, Mbeki Sr were all standing in the place that he finds himself today. The choice was either to compromise and allow separate voter rolls for different races or fight for equality of all people through the Spear of the Nation. They chose grassroots mobilisation while Malema chose cheap populist tendencies.
It is very difficult to fight an idea whose time has come and it does not come from shouting on radio stations or sloganeering, but grassroots mobilisation. Land distribution, Malema’s main issue, remains a serious problem because like Zimbabwe, 1 per cent of the South African population controls 80 per cent of the land.
It took 50 years for the 1944 group to achieve their goals; it will not happen in one decade however radicalised you may be. But considering that 70 per cent of the economy is not dependent on agriculture, the ANCs decision to improve living wages and strengthen trade unions for better working conditions should not be underestimated to create greater impact than land redistribution which will be long term.
While the next generation of Africa’s citizenry tries to find means of improving the continent, we need to take a stand away from extremist views; they will only lead to stagnation.
Ms Mbabazi is a social critic. Email: email@example.com
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