Trump and Africa

by Hannes Wessels

Along with CNN audiences around the world most South Africans went into mourning with news that the despicable, misogynist, sexist, racist and occasional lunatic Donald Trump, had won the presidency. Trevor Noah, now an international celebrity despite being desperately unfunny, was on all the talk-shows sharing the sadness and anger with his countrymen and women and there was a nary a word of praise or hope from anyone in private or public.

South Africans were united in their loathing of George Bush II, their love of Barack Obama and now their hate of ‘The Donald’. For the few like me who are of a different view this has made matters political, prickly ground and it looks like there is to be no relief but I simply don’t understand the national revulsion in the light of the facts as I understand them.

‘Liberals’ we have long been led to believe are people of peace. It’s the ‘far-rightists’ and now the ‘alt-rightists’ along with the ‘conservative’ congregation who, because they are inherently aggressive and intolerant, religiously seek war and international mayhem. But this does not do well under scrutiny. Why then, was Obama, an icon of the ‘liberal-left’, egged on by his then aspiring successor Hillary Clinton, edging ever closer to triggering a war with Russia over Assad and Syria.

The Obama administration never ever adequately explained to the American people or the world what exactly they were doing there in the first place. First they went in to remove Assad in support of the ‘rebels’, then they forged a brief alliance with the Russians and started bombing the people they had been supporting, now they are hammering Assad and threatening the Russians. It appears fair to say they have got into the habit of starting and failing to end messy wars all over the Middle East. Trump, the presumed ‘warmonger’ wants nothing to do with this approach. He wants a carefully crafted response to the ISIS threat and he seeks an alliance with Vladimir Putin that will well and truly end the ‘Cold War’ and unquestionably make the world a safer place and yet, for this, he is vilified. Putin is convinced that America and Russia have much in common based on a shared Christian history and tradition and identifies militant Islam as a common enemy to be confronted. What, I ask, my fellow South Africans, do they have a problem with here?

Trump is also on record saying he will act decisively against the despots that bedevil the African political arena. Under Obama, American policy on delinquent dictators south of the Sahara has been one of tolerance which, with the ongoing demise of the International Criminal Court, has left them free to act atrociously without fear of being held accountable. This is bad news for the continent and the hundreds of millions who suffer at the hands of brutal autocrats. Trump says this must and will end. Just how he proposes to achieve this remains to be seen. Africa, to be sure is far from the top of his agenda but one would think this intention is music to the ears of the majority of South Africans and indeed all Africans. Good, or at least, better governance will help economies grow and slow the inflow of migrants fleeing poverty to the north. It appears not. The howls of anti-Trump verbiage continue to echo across the air-waves.

The problem may lie at least partly with the fact that most South Africans slavishly cling to the cult that is now widely known as ‘political correctness’ and in a sense this election might have been viewed as a battle between the ‘politically correct’ and the ‘politically incorrect’ with Trump leading the latter camp. The media ploy to destroy him was based to a very large extent on portraying him as a ‘racist’ and comparisons to Hitler were feverishly and unfairly made but the stakes were high and he had to fall so the gloves were off and the media onslaught was unprecedented in its viciousness and relentlessness. But the angrier and uglier the commentariat became the more it backfired. The unintended consequence was the man they sought to destroy actually grew in stature and basked in millions of dollars of free publicity. Ultimately the ‘politically incorrect’ won and this may be one of the most salient lessons of the campaign. Too many Americans have become sick and tired of being called ‘racists’ and this time around the pejorative did not send them or their leader, scurrying for cover.

This same word and its abuse has dangerously polarised South Africa and is arguably the most compelling reason why the country might fail. Not because races certainly exist and  views on the dynamics of race vary, that they certainly do, but it is used by the media and the politicians to rally people to a cause based on rhetoric and few facts, which dangerously divides a nation and a people and is a recipe for conflict.

Donald Trump showed he could shrug it off and win because there were enough sentient beings out there to see through the mendacious bombast. One can only hope this is a lesson for South Africa and the world.

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