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Zimbabwe: losing my Ubuntu

13 October 2008
Thabo Mbeki is back in Zimbabwe, trying to patch up the power-sharing agreement that he helped to patch together just before he resigned as president of South Africa.
clipped from www.hararetribune.com
Yesterday the World Food Programme issued an alarming statement on the food crisis in Zimbabwe. They appealed for an additional US$140 million to cover the shortfall in basic food aid for the next six months. What they did not say was that this still leaves a shortfall in overall cereal and oilseed supplies of 800 000 tonnes for the next 6 months.
They also did not tell the world that the funds they had paid to the NGO’s doing food distribution had been taken by the Reserve Bank and the organisations could not pay their transporters for transport services or buy fuel.

no less than US$500 million has been pilfered from the State and private coffers in this way. That is enough money to feed the entire population for 7 months. No wonder they do not want to wrap up this agreement and swear in a new government. They must be terrified of anyone getting into the vaults and records at the Reserve Bank.
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In some ways the economic crisis in Zimbabwe resembles that in other countries, except that it has lasted longer and gone further. And there is another dimension to the problem too. In other countries the problem has been greedy bankers and crooked lenders. In Zimbabwe it has been a greedy governrment and power abuse on a grand scale.

The power-sharing deal cobbled together by Thabo Mbeki in some ways represents ANC thinking over the last couple of decades. It is based on the philosophy of Ubuntu.

And let us not underestimate the power of Ubuntu.

It enabled South Africa to make the transition to democracy with relatively little bloodshed. Ubuntu eventually prevailed over violence in constitutional negotiations. It was the spirit of inclusion. It enabled the ANC, both in the period leading up to the first democratic election and as the government immediately after the elections, to treat the differences of opinion and conflict as family squabbles, to be dealt with by an approach of inclusion, and making everybody happy. So the leader of the old enemy, F.W. de Klerk of the National Party, was included in a government of national unity as deputy president. M.G. Buthelezi of the Inkatha Freedom Party was included in the cabinet.

John Carlin describes how Terror Lekota invited a member of the extreme white right to his birthday party:

I like this story because it captures the spirit of that epic reconciliation that the ANC masterminded out of the epic injustice its people had endured for so long. Terror, whose inauguration as premier (another heart-lifting ceremony of reconciliation) I attended, always struck me in those days as a rough-diamond version of Mandela; all the finer instincts and values, with somewhat less of the polish.

But it seems that the ANC is losing its Ubuntu. Terror Lekota has now announced that he is serving divorce papers on his former comrades in the ANC, and Thabo Mbeki’s solution to Zimbabwe’s problems is unravelling fast.

South Africa was not able to find a solutuion to its problems until the intransigent P.W. Botha departed from the centre stage. And perhaps Zimbabwe’s problems will not be solved until Robert Mugabe makes a similar departure for the political wilderness, and perhaps the best contribution South Africa could make is to buy him P.W.’s old home in the Wilderness, and encourage him to go and live there.

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