Which African ‘will change the course of his­tory’?

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - COMMENT -

I READ Zwelinz­ima Vavi’s ar­ti­cle, “An op­por­tu­nity for Africans to change the course of his­tory” (Week­end Ar­gus, Novem­ber 26), with great in­ter­est.

Op­por­tu­ni­ties for Africans started af­ter World War II. Libya gained in­de­pen­dence from Italy, af­ter which colonised coun­tries like North­ern Rhode­sia, South­ern Rhode­sia, Tan­ganyika, Bel­gian Congo, Kenya, Urundi, Su­dan, and the Fed­eral Repub­lic of Nige­ria be­came independent fol­low­ing “free and fair” elec­tions.

They failed dis­mally. Decades of ne­glect ru­ined ex­ist­ing and work­ing in­fra­struc­ture, while whites were lit­er­ally chased out.

I re­cently met the town en­gi­neer of Ndola, the Zam­bian town where I was born, to dis­cuss prob­lems re­gard­ing water and sewage retic­u­la­tion sys­tems. These had not been ser­viced since 1964. Peo­ple with skills, like en­gi­neers, es­ti­ma­tors, ar­ti­sans, busi­ness­men and bankers, were chased out of the coun­try. Un­qual­i­fied per­son­nel took over in all sec­tors of the econ­omy and govern­ment in­fra­struc­ture. With­out for­mal train­ing, they ran the lot into the ground.

South Africa will be no dif­fer­ent. The signs are there: new pres­i­den­tial jets, arms deals, mil­lion-rand salaries (when min­is­ters are sus­pended), mil­lion-rand bonuses for un­der­per­form­ing paras­tatal CEOS, bank­rupt mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, and busi­ness and gov- ern­ment cor­rup­tion.

There is no dif­fer­ence in coloni­sa­tion be­tween in­vad­ing a coun­try, plun­der­ing its re­sources and en­slav­ing its lo­cals, or in­vad­ing a coun­try by do­nat­ing bil­lions of dol­lars, tak­ing its re­sources and en­slav­ing its lo­cals with “poorly paid jobs”.

Vavi says: “Mass poverty and food in­se­cu­rity are the re­sult of the failed post-colo­nial po­lit­i­cal econ­omy on the con­ti­nent, ex­ac­er­bated by a ve­nal, cor­rupt and vi­sion­less lead­er­ship. Gen­er­a­tions of African lead­ers have failed to trans­form the economies we in­her­ited from the colo­nial masters.”

Mass poverty will al­ways be a prob­lem in Africa be­cause you can­not up­lift your fam­ily by hav­ing more chil­dren and wives than you can af­ford, and then de­mand­ing free health, ed­u­ca­tion, hous­ing and ser­vices while plun­der­ing the cof­fers that are sup­posed to help the poor.

Moeletsi Mbeki said un­less lead­ers stop mouthing off to South Africa’s poor about the past and what colo­nial masters did, and find the guts and un­selfish drive that made Western and East­ern coun­tries pow­er­ful, we will be­come an­other Zim­babwe. Which African leader did Vavi have in mind “to change the course of his­tory”?

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