OP-EDs

OP-ED: SOUTH AFRICA IS OUR NEIGHBOUR, NOT OUR SAVIOUR

By Nkopane Mathibeli

It is true that the consequences of being in solidarity with South African anti-apartheid activists have been difficult for all neighbouring countries involved.

It is also true that there is no better episode than the planned and ruthlessly executed military destabilisation of Southern Africa – [by apartheid South Africa] – specifically focused on Mozambique, Namibia, Angola and Zimbabwe to sum up such difficulties.

Countries like Lesotho, Swaziland and Botswana also suffered military altercations meant to “encourage” them to expel these activists, but stood their ground.

When apartheid “died” and those previously branded “terrorists” gained control of Mzansi’s vast economy, built safety nets and created opportunities for the previously disadvantaged through affirmative action.

First they built RDP houses for the homeless, electrified them and supplied them with running water before proceeding to bankroll the lives of the previously disadvantaged in a myriad of ways. These include the BBBEE programme.

What were the other governments getting up to during the same time with regard to improving the lives of their people? Nothing much…

Lesotho had just returned from sixteen years of autocratic and seven of military rule which (the latter) did nothing but ruin the economy.

Though Leabua had flooded the bureaucracy with his kin and kith, there was progress. This even extended to the public enterprise sector which during his rule was a major player in the economy.

In came the military and the outcome was an utterly dysfunctional economy in which each and every public enterprise had to be subsidized, the worst being Lesotho Bank with a 20 Million monthly subsidy.

So instead of following the welfare approach of Mzansi, the government had to start from scratch to build an economy through which it could also subsidise the lives of its people in future and guess what it did?

It privatised the public enterprises without much emphasis on local ownership or even capacitating the poor to buy shares.

In Zimbabwe Mugabe’s legitimacy was dwindling and courtesy of his continued self-imposition on his people, the economy suffered terribly as we all know.

In fact, with the exception of Botswana, most neighbouring countries that had harboured apartheid activists failed to offset sustainable development programmes as if they were oblivious of the looming unemployment crisis.

When it finally hit, all roads naturally led to Mzansi, but where else would they lead? Large numbers of Basotho, the Swazis, the Mozambicans, Zambians, Namibians, Angolans, the Congolese and the Malawians all flowed into Mzansi.

This might be an understatement because by looking at the immigrant population, it seems as if all of Africa came to South Africa, the land of promise.

As a result of losing the battle with joblessness to cheap and hardworking immigrant labourers, the South Africans cried foul.

On the other hand, overwhelmed by crimes of all sorts and supported by convictions, a new theory began to emerge that the outsiders contributed substantially to crime in Mzansi.

The South African Police Service then unleashed its fury on all undocumented immigrants by rounding them up, briefly detaining them before deporting them back to their impoverished countries.

We need not blame them or must we? I don’t think so because all the relevant authorities in Mzansi are merely doing their job. They all act within their jurisdiction.

Unfortunately, not everyone sees it like that, particularly in Lesotho where the South Africans are seen to be hypocrites with short memories, “how can they do this to us yet we protected them from the Boers in the past” is a general protest line.

I bet some quarters in all the comrade countries whose citizens are deported cry in the same words, “how can they do this to us”.

What did you expect them to do? To consider each one of our poor as previously disadvantaged too by virtue of our countries having lent a hand in the annihilation of apartheid?

I don’t think so and there is only one reason, South Africa is not our saviours but our neighbour. NW

Republished from Nkopane Mathibeli’s blog.

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