Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Dissecting the Zim loan prospect in SA by Wayne Wides

Curious why there seems to be no consensus among South African citizens about whether their government should release a loan to Zimbabwe, I asked South African blogger Wayne Wides of about this. Here is his insightful response on a tricky situation - one that involves race and ultimately fear, a situation that makes people tread very warily with what they say.

A lot of conservative black South Africans for example see what is happening to Zimbabwe rather as a case of repeat British imperialism, and regard Mugabe as being in the forefront of the resistance to this. The view is slowly changing but it's not uncommon to find those who shout their support for Mugabe. I'd say the ANC Youth League and Daily Sun editor Jon Qwelane fall into that category but that's why Mugabe continues with the rhetoric about imperialism and counter-revolutionaries - he knows that he's appealing not just to local but also South African groups fears of the return of the imperialists.

The more liberal and left wing black South Africans are more up to speed on the issue and relate to ordinary Zimbabweans plight. They're more predisposed to opposing Mugabe as a result and include the like of Cosatu.

White South Africans are heavily opposed to Mugabe but admittedly for sometimes vastly different reasons. The camp Laurence and I fall into opposes him for his destructive rule and violations of rights. However a great deal of white South Africans oppose him for what he did to the white farmers and fear that that will also happen to them. I'd say this group falls into the Democratic Alliance class.

A third group are opposed to him for more racist sentiments. That's the Freedom Front+ supporter type of thinking and/or far right groups like the AWB. They mostly see the white farmers being expelled and use it to whip up their brand of sentiment and extremism.

The last white group in turn actually causes a lot of black South Africans to instinctively support Mugabe ithout knowing all the facts on the ground. They see those who they know are indeed racist and decrying him with racist overtures as intent on repeating the old themes of Apartheid and therefore side with Mugabe as the lesser of two evils. That's their fearful reaction - they see it as necessary to stop that thought. I think Abiola picked this up a while back - if the racists shut up then a lot of moderate blacks would actually turn against Mugabe because of the absence of the fear the former inspires.

The second white group is admittedly more driven by fear of what will happen to them. They worry a great deal over whether Mbeki looks at them in the same way that Mugabe did to whites and does to the opposition in Zimbabwe. So it's partly a principled but also partly another fear driven response.

I'd say coloured and indians don't like Mugabe in general either for some similar reasons of fear but also rinciple. The ANC technocrats themselves (Mbeki, Dlamini-Zuma) seem to have a very strange mix of reasons. In one way Mbeki does see Mugabe as an ally from the days of the struggle against Apartheid and in terms of the third world versus the first world, and as a result grants him the benefit of the doubt. However this also
conflicts with Mbeki's African Renaissance concept. I don't think Mbeki fully accepts yet that he can't have both Mugabe and the African Renaissance but he seems to be trying for that. There are however slight signs even he's becoming exasperated by Mugabe's behaviour lately.

Copyright Wayne Wides 2005. Used with permission.

You can reach Wayne at

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