A choice between pride and survival

Source: A choice between pride and survival – NewsDay Zimbabwe April 10, 2017

While we watch South Africa nearing a crisis — a President Jacob Zuma crisis as they have attempted to call it — it must be a challenge for our own political parties preparing to take to the ring come 2018. Generating new narratives that win the hearts and minds of our electorate is not an easy feat because we don’t often vote based on policies, but individuals and their history. The same individuals still occupy our political space.

Develop me: Tapiwa Gomo

How then does the South Africa situation impact the propaganda of our elections next year? South Africa has remained what it is today because their constitution — which is often described as one of the best — accepted, cemented and rationalised the historical injustices and imbalances as the starting point for a new democracy. It allowed and enabled different races to have tea or coffee together even though they still live on different sides of the economic fence. Perhaps it was a strategic balance between pride and survival.

Access to the wealthier side has remained a challenge for the have-nots unless they break the fence. Nonetheless, the economy has remained stable. Most African National Congress leaders are often blamed for breaking the fence. The other side feels that the protection to their wealth has been breached. And is it is also emerging now among blacks that there is now need to re-negotiate a new middle-ground, as access to the economy is impossible without breaking the fences.

Using the constitution as a shield, the haves, possess the financial capacity to use the courts, democracy and protection of property rights for their security in a country where the have-nots are fast becoming hungrier and angrier.

Those saying Zuma must go either belong to the wealthy side of the fence or they feed from it. Those saying Zuma must stay do not see anything wrong in Zuma breaking the fence in comparison to how the apartheid system threw the people behind the fence. Both sides are right. They are just operating from different contexts. One is protecting the present cake, while the other is seeking recourse as the cake was baked from what was stolen from them. And again the question of pride and survival emerges.

Reconciling the two is also a source of tension. This battle is not about whether Zuma is right or wrong, but it is the battle for control of the people’s minds in order to protect the wealthy or to improve access to it. All conflicts arise from the desire to control the present and the future. However, the attempt to control people always risks provoking resistance or struggles.

South Africans are not alone in this quandary, as we went through a similar situation. We accepted the Lancaster House Constitution, which allowed the settlers to keep their wealth untouched until after 10 years, after, which new discussions would be held on how to resolve the land issue. The aim was to protect the wealth of the settlers – which allowed agriculture to become the mainstay of a thriving economy. Because Zanu PF then swallowed its pride, the economy was one of the biggest in Africa, which gave people choices.

But the farmers of that time became an untouchable group because they contributed massively and controlled the economy to an extent that addressing the land issue became an economically sensitive and untouchable case of preserving the goose that lay the golden eggs.

What can our political leader s, especially in the opposition learn from South African situation? Our politics has become so illogical because it is never based on ideas. Each political party’s philosophy is a counter to either the ruling party or the opposition. We differ not because there are differences but simply because we have to differ with someone.

The ruling party is known for its racist policies, which arise from its historical grounding of liberating the people from colonialism. So in their approach, the economy has to be owned by black Zimbabweans. By that they do not mean any black person but their black person — one who sings their praises. Over the decades, they have ensured that poverty diminishes people’s freedom by reducing the number and appeals of their options by determining the context of people’s choices and functions as a remarkably effective tool of control. They have centralised power and wealth and their autocracy can be seen in how much resources are allocated to the security sector compared to social services. They have mastered the art of owning resources as a means to deny the rest the right use or access it. And anything foreign is a threat to their power.

On the other hand, opposition parties have not thrived on identifying and selling new ideas, but on opposing the ruling party. And part of their underlying policies is to promote economic growth by bringing back the same farmers, who the ruling party chased and to bring more foreign investors to boost the economy. There are issues here. One is that the growth of the economy is attached to individuals and their race and not to policy positions. The second is an acknowledgement that we do not have the means to transform our economy and, therefore, we need to call on foreign investors.

Zanu PF will always destroy the opposition approach to the economy by arguing that foreign investors will marginalise our people, as if they have not done that more than the colonialist. In a context such as ours, it does not matter where the milk comes from, as long as there is food on the table. In a situation where one has to choose between pride and survival, certainly Zanu PF’s nationalistic ideology will not survive an election unless power plays its part.

Tapiwa Gomo is a development consultant based in Pretoria, South Africa