Black Affairs, Africa and Development
Signage of the Times…
President Mandela sat in prison for 27 years and despite his famous speech on what “Africans want…” it seems his people still do not own their land. They took a back seat in assisting Zimbabwe to succeed as a land-locked nation. Had South Africa proved more accommodating, history may have turned out very differently for southern Africa in its entirety.
As its closest neighbours they are throwing up their arms in horror that since throwing in the towel on its errant “Common-Wealth” stepchild, Britain was replaced by China as swiftly as removing one’s fist from water. China’s presence in Africa is nothing new. Mandarin trade ambassadors visited Africa’s eastern shores with the first gust of monsoons carrying their sailboats across from Asia about the time of the Phoenicians, long before Vasco da Gama or Captain Cook. Now apparently having Chinese neighbours unnerves South Africans, yet some are descended from Chinese?
Despite Rhodesia’s Boer connections built up during UDI, Rhodesia collapsed irrevocably in the face of British Sanctions; the only option for Zimbabwe to survive was ZanuPF Government replacing the hand that fed its white settlers with another.
Yes, the Chinese and Russians did assist during the Revolution, but who else was willing to trade with Zimbabwe? The Chinese track record via the ancient Silk Road across Arabia proved that they are masters at international trading.
For such merchants dealing with central Africa must have been a walk in the park as it was for Britain negotiating Zimbabwe’s Independence because they actually side-lined those faithful civil servants who stood by the Crown but then later decided to remain with Mugabe. The finer details of their pensions paid in over 50 years, as well as many other pension plans and life insurance policies were virtually ignored, buried in the mire of legal administration and the excitement that after so many years Independence was a reality.
Some individuals actually lost their pensions in the transfer from head offices in South Africa when Sascom and others folded, but what did part time foot-soldiers know of the inner workings of the British Government in Rhodesia? What didn’t the Rhodesian Front want them to know? Later many came to realise that what they had paid in was not after all squirreled away by Mugabe’s new Government, so when he says, “I despise the British for what they have done to my country!” only a handful of survivors will understand his bitterness at being blamed for everything that went wrong.
The black state to the south of Zimbabwe, did not support Zimbabwe sitting on the ‘naughty steps of Britain’ since that fateful day when President Mugabe told Britain to keep its Commonwealth, and the Black Brotherhood have not been as magnanimous in extending goodwill to Zimbabwe; they forget that members of the banned ANC were accommodated in Zimbabwe homes, used as ‘safe houses’, during the years of The Struggle.
During the Apartheid years when a black President was unthinkable, and South Africans balked at doing business with Zimbabwe, not realising that it would be to their own detriment because Zimbabwe then discovered untold wealth beneath its feet; they have subliminally widened the Zimbabweans’ opportunities on the international job market because not only tri-lingual with French and Afrikaans, some speak Mandarin too.
Proof of China’s bold existence in Zimbabwe is that on arrival at Harare International Airport, signage also points the way in Mandarin. On the other hand the signage is exactly what the British introduced at Salisbury Aerodrome during WW2 which subliminally taught workers on the ground the ‘Briteesh’ language; no different to Afrikaans that once dominated Jan Smuts Airport. Now it’s the turn of the Chinese, and airport staff are capitalising on the new signage to learn the language. How many South Africans are fluent in Mandarin, today taught in Zimbabwe’s primary schools? Rhodesia would not allow Shona or Sinde in its schools, and as history proved, that was not progressive at all!
After all that Zimbabwe did during The Struggle for them, it is difficult to understand why the South Africans are so aghast at their northern neighbours accommodating China in order to survive western sanctions. They have not done half as much as their Boer Government did for Rhodesia 40 years ago when the people faced the same bullying tactics by British and European governments.
South Africa has only stepped forward to secure cheap labour and entice its specialised medical and technical staff in the face of adversity; it has been a downward spiral in this relationship from day one, with the odd exception – especially in the Tourist industry – because of shared borders.
What has happened to all those SA Government pensions, never to be seen again, that were payable to Zimbabweans but forfeited, when their own Government insisted they give up their South African heritage if they wanted a Zimbabwe passport?
Allowing imports to arrive on the continent via South African ports, using the railroads up to border posts at Beit Bridge and Plumtree, networks of long-haulage road transport have all come at great cost to the man walking the streets of Zimbabwe. Is it any wonder that Mugabe had little time for Mandela?
History is proving that despite Zulu blood flowing freely through the southern state of Matabeleland only some blood is thicker than water. Boer blood flowed freely through Rhodesia but now South Africa subliminally capitalises on Zimbabwe in more ways than one – charging exorbitant Customs Duties on all exports being transported to Zimbabwe. SADC is all about window-dressing at great cost to the Government of Zimbabwe who in turn has to then impose ridiculous Customs Duty, Excise Duty and VAT in order to recoup its costs. In the UK there is no Customs Duty or VAT payable when importing from the EU.
Zimbabweans are suffering. They have paid an astronomical price for Independence but they are a resilient lot, and despite everything, I believe they will overcome. The curse of those who quit after being promised Utopia at Independence is ongoing, but to those quietly discrediting the country in the shadows of semi-permanent Sanctions crippling this nation, remember, Karma has its own form of retribution when least expected. Be careful what you wish for.
Mandela’s Communist affiliations were blatantly revealed at death – but none of us are perfect. Perhaps one day we will find out why Robert Mugabe only had to say sorry via the UN to his people for his mistakes, but did not. Ian Douglas Smith never apologised for his mistakes. Others wonder why HRH Prince Charles didn’t either when he lowered the Union flag on what was once a British colony.