Zim crisis makes mockery of African "Renaissance"
Strauss rebukes MakhanyaJaco Strauss vs Mondli Makhanya
Sunday Times (South Africa)
This is a letter I wrote to the Sunday Times in response to Mondli Makhanya"s Left Field column re the Zimbabwean disaster titled "There's a lesson in the farm invasions". His original piece can be seen below mine.
It was published on the online version of the paper on 2 May 2000.
The "left field" column "There's a lesson in the farm invasions" by Mondli Makhanya in The Sunday Times of 30 April is one the poorest columns I've ever read.
Unbelievably, Mr Makhanya acts as an apologist for the mayhem the desperate despot Mugabe is unleashing on the total Zimbabwean population. Take the following quote for example. It was made by a farmer, living under constant fear of being lynched by a racist mob of murderous thugs. "Oh, I don't need to explain to you. You know how mobs are. You were probably involved in Soweto yourself."
To try and make a big racist thing out of a statement that is at most insensitive is sickening against the background of the state-sponsored life-threatening racism the white minority has to deal with around the clock.
To my amazement the quality of the column actually deteriorated from this pathetic point of departure. We are told, for example, that "(White Zimbabweans) still have their own social clubs, tee off with each other at golf courses and attend cricket and rugby games with each other, but they are never to be seen at the national soccer team's games or any event that will have a predominantly black crowd.Ē
If whites only tee of with each other, you have to assume that blacks only tee off with each other as well. What is the point he is trying to make? Whites only tee off with whites, but blacks tee off with whites as well? And how does the soccer get to be "predominately" black, while the whites are being attacked for never attending it.
But as the heading suggests, there might actually be a lesson in these invasions. In South Africa we have a government unable to openly condemn these atrocities. Even worse, they are not prepared to give assurances that the rule of law and protection of property rights in this country will never be jettisoned. This, against the background of an already shocking 800 farmers murdered since 1994.
I am afraid the only lesson to be learnt from the current sad state of affairs is that Mbekiís "African Renaissance" turned out to be a laughable concept.
There's a lesson in the farm invasions
Left Field Column in The Sunday Times (South Africa)
ABOUT two months ago, while I was interviewing some Zimbabwean farmers whose land had been invaded by war veterans and trying hard to empathise with their plight, one of them started painting a scenario of what might happen should one of the war veteran commanders decide to storm the farmhouse.
Going into great depth about the workings of a mob's mind, the farmer suddenly realised he was talking to a black South African: "Oh, I don't need to explain to you. You know how mobs are. You were probably involved in Soweto yourself."
I feigned a little smile and let his remark go. It did not occur to him or any of his colleagues that something hugely offensive had just been uttered. It was just one of those things.
In many other dealings with Zimbabwean farmers over the past eight weeks I was to come across much more of such crass racism, and I heard horrifying tales of racism from other press colleagues who have been covering the land invasions in our neighbouring country.
This week, as I surveyed the crowd at the funeral of David Stevens, a farmer who was brutally murdered by war veterans two weeks ago, I felt a little sorry for white Zimbabweans. The faces and the mutterings of the almost exclusively white mourners told of a besieged community that could not understand why it was being victimised.
White Zimbabweans have, over the past 20 years, since independence, retreated into their own semi-republic, refusing to be part of the country that was born on April 18 1980.
They still have their own social clubs, tee off with each other at golf courses and attend cricket and rugby games with each other, but they are never to be seen at the national soccer team's games or any event that will have a predominantly black crowd.
Many shun the city centre after office hours and socialise in their suburban surroundings.
Sounds a lot like South Africa's white population, doesn't it? Well, by the looks of things, that is the route South Africa's white population is taking. White South Africans, too, decided to cut themselves off from the rest of the country after April 27 1994.
Like Zimbabwe's whites, they seldom venture beyond the suburban shopping malls, and they have even decided to take the central business districts with them to suburbia.
Like Zimbabwe's whites, their cultural compass is somewhere beyond the seas, and the names Mdu Masilela, Steve Lekoelea and Sello Maake kaNcube mean nothing to them.
In Zimbabwe, this retreat into tribal exclusivity has resulted in serious resentment by the black underclass. Seen as remnants of the old Rhodesia, white Zimbabweans attract the scorn of those who have been cheated by that country's greedy leaders.
White Zimbabweans have provided a perfect decoy for President Robert Mugabe, who relishes scapegoats to blame for the mess in which he has landed the country. In white Zimbabweans, he finds wealthy, stuck-up and colonial -minded people he can accuse of frustrating his attempts to transform the country.
He accuses them of spurning the hand of reconciliation that black Zimbabweans offered in the early '80s. In that, he is right because white Zimbabweans still long for the good old days of Ian Smith and still harbour racist sentiments long after independence.
Mugabe accuses them of hampering his government's attempts to redistribute land equitably. There he is partially correct because white farmers initially refused to acknowledge any need for land reform and kept many redistribution efforts tied up in the court system. But they have now come to the party, albeit late and long after they have caricatured themselves as anti-transformation forces.
Mugabe also accuses the farmers of exploitation and disregard for the welfare of their black workforces. Well, any visit to a Zimbabwean farm and an examination of farm workers' quarters will show that he is not wide off the mark.
As much as they would hate to admit it, white South Africans have not fared spectacularly in the field of accepting change.
Besides their withdrawal into their white laager, they have also rejected all transformation projects. To them, black economic empowerment is broerskap ; affirmative action equals the lowering of standards; and the blackening of public service structures is the beginning of the slide into Third World administration.
It would be useful for white South Africans not just to sympathise with their racial kin north of the Limpopo but to learn some lessons from their experiences, too.
The first step will be for them to come out of their cocoon and make an effort to become part of the country of which they claim citizenship. They may also find it a good idea to accept - as hard as this may seem - that there may have been an inkling of injustice in the way the old South Africa was organised. They will also have to accept they are just as complicit as P W Botha and B J Vorster in the perpetration and perpetuation of apartheid.
Then it might occur to them that change is necessary and that they need to be part of it .
Hopefully, it will not take 20 years for that realisation to dawn on them.