by Hannes Wessels
Calling for African countries to wield more influence at the United Nations is nothing new; it has been going on for decades. Robert Mugabe, while busy destroying the country he was tasked to govern, routinely lambasted the world body at the General Assembly for thwarting his efforts to be more influential in his selfless quest to do to the world what he was doing to his country. As far as I know, nobody ever asked him to provide any credentials to back up his claim to have any answers to the problems plaguing the world and so he continued his crusade throughout his tenure as president of Zimbabwe.
Unsurprisingly, South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa, has recently chimed in with the same demands, calling for greater African representation on the Security Council in order to make the world a better place. With statesmanlike virtuousness he declared: “It is only through a reformed and inclusive UN Security Council that we will be able to collectively resolve some of the world’s most protracted conflicts.” He went on to say, with great gravitas: “The path we choose now will determine our collective destiny.”
Well, all I can say is I admire the man’s chutzpah, but if the rest of the world is to be managed along the same lines as continental leaders, the masters of misrule, run their countries, then God help all who fall under the sway of these people and their initiatives.
While delivering his lecture he presides over a chronically corrupt and incompetent administration, that, in the stellar African tradition, has ruined, or is still in the process of ruining the transport and communications infrastructure, the SOE’s (State Owned Enterprises) and the organs of state that were handed to his governing party in excellent condition. With the state coffers looted bare, unemployment on the rise and rampant unions demanding ever more of the shrinking pie the country appears well on track to becoming another basket case, dependent on the largesse of better run countries, to remain viable. With some people, this would surely induce, some sense of humility among those responsible for this unfortunate state of affairs, but in this case, apparently not. Ramaphosa lectures the world with the certainty of a saint.
The sad reality is that even if South Africa, was entrusted with a playing a more meaningful role in addressing the problems besetting the world, what have we learned from the ruling party’s past and what does it tell us about its ability to contribute anything apart from noise and righteous rhetoric.
The country’s ability and political will to be a force for good was tested during the Mbeki era when President Mugabe initiated his so-called ‘land-reform’ policy. At that same time, President Mbeki was generating enormous excitement at home and abroad, while preaching the gospel of the ‘African Renaissance’ which would see African leaders, under the ‘Peer Review Mechanism’, break the old mould of delinquency, and forge a new and brighter future through adhering to the tenets of good governance and respect for fundamental human rights. A golden dawn was upon us.
At the height of this campaign, Mugabe, immediately broke virtually every one of the rules his colleague waxed so eloquently about, and the world watched closely to see if words would be transposed into actions. Well, we all know now, not only did Mbeki ignore his own dogma, he went to work facilitating the murder and mayhem which precipiated the implosion of the Zimbabwe economy, triggering a regional crisis that forced the flight of millions of impoverished people into South Africa. This has hugely increased the number of unemployed in his own country while extinguishing the financial viability of an important neighbour which now lurks perilously close to being considered a failed state.
Now, another regional crisis presents itself in the shape of an insurgency in the Cabo Delgado province of northern Mozambique which appears to have taken on an Islamic-State identity. This is aimed at bringing about the secession of a sizable slice of the country and the fracturing of an important neighbour, while promising the spread of violence leading to regional instability and more poverty. Being the major power on the sub-continent all eyes are on President Ramaphosa to provide some answers, but it seems inaction, bordering on sullen indifference, is the order of the day.
The reason is almost certainly much to do with incapacity, and this need not have been the case. When the ANC took control of the country they were handed on a plate, the mightiest military machine south of the Sahara, which could have provided a key component in the projection of power in pursuit of positive outcomes. All they had to do was do very little to retain this vital asset, but like everything else they have been given to administer, race trumped merit, the military-industrial complex has collapsed and the capability squandered. Now when meaningful military intervention is sorely needed in the neighbourhood it is simply not available. Typical to form, African leaders have no answers and look hopefully to the Europeans and Americans they so frequently berate, for assistance.
The question President Ramaphosa and his administration should be asked to address is quite simple; if you can’t run your own country competently and you are unable to solve any of the problems that challenge you in your immediate vicinity, what exactly are you offering the world?