It’s hundreds of years now since the onslaught of white domination in South Africa, hundreds of years of the suffering of generations. Born poor, forever poor; born rich, forever rich is the unspoken slogan. But the English have a saying that there’s always an exception to every rule- and this exception in modern South Africa is none other than President Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma. Whilst wearing the original black man’s skin, he has used his position to elevate himself beyond the level of the white-man.
At the age of 72, Jacob Zuma was undoubtedly old enough to witness and experience the pain inflicted on black South Africans in the run up to the arrest of his predecessor and highly acclaimed world icon Nelson Mandela (RIP). The question that the current President must stand to answer fifty years later is: Are we there? Unfortunately for South Africans, the answer is a big NO. Twist the question and ask Jacob Zuma to answer; Are you there? And the answer is an overwhelming YES. Nelson Mandela Madiba sacrificed his life not for the glorification of handful individuals but for a nation- and this nation in its entirety, must taste the fruits of the end to apartheid. Less
So if 20 years since the change of guard from White to Black; the ordinary South African is still gnashing: Then what about? Well, some may say that thank God today we can board the same train; we can walk together on the streets; we can go to the same markets; we can play on the same Football team and so on. Surely is it for just this that Nelson Mandela spent 27 of his adult years in prison? As long as a black South African continues to graze in abject poverty just as it were, even when the country is said to be one of the most developed on the continent, then white or black a devil is a devil.
In 2012 I had a chance to travel to South Africa, and particularly visited Durban. While in Durban, I happened to visit quite a number of places, including the spot where Nelson Mandela was captured and arrested in 1962. I then proceeded to President Jacob Zuma’s home village of Nkandlah, where I spent a night at a friend’s home. It’s located just a few kilometers from the President’s palace. To compound the level of poverty in this home, I found myself having to shower from a metallic basin (the Banyankole call it Ekalaaya), inside my room. This was like falling from heaven straight to hell, comparing with my humble abode back home in Kampala-I was shell shocked that I wondered all night whether I was actually in South Africa or engrossed in a dream. Next morning, we visited neighboring communities, many with no land of their own, and unable to grow any food as the small chunks they occupy are mostly rocky. I bled on my heart, imagining the glamorous celebrations that greeted the end of apartheid, the olive branch miserably weathering away.
A stone’s throw from the poorest South African, I got ever closer to the much talked about President’s home. Oh my word! Beautiful would be an understatement since construction was still underway, but the visual impression was enough to tell that this development must cost quite some liquid cash. And when news started to spread that the President’s home was to cost South Africa 13 Million Pounds, I didn’t doubt. Jacob Zuma is never short of surprises-he was quoted during the recent elections as he justified the luxurious security detail at his home, that one time (before he became President), thugs broke into his home and raped one of his wives. No Your Excellency, find another excuse surely. Half this money could feed a Million hapless South Africans for a year and still the President would live luxuriously enough. It’s this gaping that casts a doubt on the exact taste of the end to Apartheid in South Africa-are decades of struggle burning away in a smoke screen?
At the end of the day, what South Africans must try to address, is the bad politics, which proliferates bad leaders. And a bad leader whether white or black, is bad. So now elections have confirmed a win for the ruling Africa National Congress (ANC)-that was wastage of time and money, because it was expected. And guess who will be named President the next day______Jacob Zuma. In the Ugandan setting, the people usually say, “No change”. Little does it ever occur to them that what you say is what you get most times. If a poor woman down in Nkandlah were seen shouting “No change”, it would be a sign of poor civic education, because deep in her heart, she actually yearns for some change however minute. Jacob Zuma must deliver this.
Politics being what it is- “who gets what, when and how”; this statement is neither male nor female, and therefore, neither white nor black. South Africans must wake up and re-affirm the kind of country they always genuinely dreamed of. This cannot be realized by political game players. Politics is a bad game in Kampala as is in Juba; in Addis Ababa as is in Kuala Lumpur; in Kigali as is in Kinshasha; politics is as bad in Abuja as it is in Lilongwe, and certainly Johannesburg stinks, and so does Durban-the black man is crying for a day’s meal, a reason to smile.
Unfortunately, unless power holders equitably distribute the national cake amongst the children of South Africa, a post-Mandela revolution remains inevitable.
By: Tumusiime K. Deo
International Communications Consultant