Charity begins at home
Let’s put ourselves before the rest of Africa
IT HAS BEEN ARGUED in this space from time to time that South Africa does itself no favours by identifying with the continent of Africa and its problems rather than concentrating its resources on domestic needs.
Thabo Mbeki seldom misses an opportunity to remark that “we as Africans” believe in something or other and, of course, he had his minions in Parliament drooling over his “I am an African” soliloquy. Imagine if his Japanese counterpart stood up in the Diet and proudly announced, as if it were a world shattering matter: “I am an Oriental”.
He would probably be shipped off for observation.
As we cling to the old and justly despised system of racial classification, this sentiment of Mbeki’s would appear to disqualify Indi- ans, Coloureds and whites from the prized appellation of “African”. And, with an arrogance and cruelty worthy of the Nats, our Government has consigned our Oriental citizens to a no man’s land.
Be that as it may, we were interested to learn from the Sunday Times man attending the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland that others are now coming around to the view that we should promote and care for South Africa first rather than becoming all misty-eyed over Mother Africa.
Recently your correspondent spent six weeks in the United States visiting Orlando, Jacksonville and Miami in Florida and Houston and Dallas in Texas. Following the habits of a lifetime I read the daily papers wherever I was. Mention of Africa was scarce and of South Africa invisible.
Africa brings to mind in the average American images of death and destruction, open sewers, dark streets, starving children, decrepit Aids victims and child soldiers grinning behind their AK47s.
Of course there is the small minority who actually have passports and are adventurous enough to visit Africa. But if South Africa, for example, disappeared off the face of the earth overnight, the developed world would hardly notice. We consume less than 1% of the world’s output of ethical drugs.
There are corporates whose annual turnover exceeds our GNP. We are a pimple on the earth, although our leaders strut selfimportantly in the capitals of the world giving advice left, right and centre.
In Davos Brian Bruce, Chief Executive Officer of construction group Murray & Roberts, told the Times: “We’re off the agenda, and I don’t think we’re helped by the views of Africa as a whole.”
Bruce added: “I think people are prepared to view South Africa differently to Africa (but) we spend too much time trying to stand up for the whole of Africa.”
Even the African director of the World Economic Forum, Haiko Alfeld, agreed with Bruce’s view that SA sacrifices far too much for the continent. He commented that SA had “underachieved” at Davos by creating an identity as the voice of Africa.”
He is quoted by the Times: “There was a deliberate decision made that SA interests should be subsumed by African interests here. Certainly India and China do not have to come here with an Asia Tiger agenda – they promote themselves.”
There’s a view, clearly, that to attract greater investment flows to this country SA should distance itself from Africa and its unending slide into anarchy, disorder, violence and economic decline.
This is not to do with race. It’s to do with reality and with the reality that the role of the Government in South Africa is to serve the needs of the people of SA and not those of the people of the continent.