Quote of the week

Universal adult suffrage on a common voters roll is one of the foundational values of our entire constitutional order. The achievement of the franchise has historically been important both for the acquisition of the rights of full and effective citizenship by all South Africans regardless of race, and for the accomplishment of an all-embracing nationhood. The universality of the franchise is important not only for nationhood and democracy. The vote of each and every citizen is a badge of dignity and of personhood. Quite literally, it says that everybody counts. In a country of great disparities of wealth and power it declares that whoever we are, whether rich or poor, exalted or disgraced, we all belong to the same democratic South African nation; that our destinies are intertwined in a single interactive polity.

Justice Albie Sachs
August and Another v Electoral Commission and Others (CCT8/99) [1999] ZACC 3
31 March 2007

Zimbabwe: another explanation

Die Burger today reports (no Internet link) that President Robert Mugabe has told supporters that not one of the SADC leaders criticised his government because they assaulted Morgan Tsvangirai. He said this is because Tsvangirai asked for it. He is then quoted as saying:

President Thabo Mbeki also agreed with us and said he was aware that some Western countries had a hidden agenda to get rid of African leaders who had come to power through liberation struggles. He (Mbeki) said he knows Western leaders want to remove all revolutionary leaders from their positions of power to replace them with their puppets. He even said the same agenda is being followed in his own country.

When reading these reported remarks, it suddenly occurred to me that there might be a far more sinister and shocking reason for President Mbeki’s inaction on Zimbabwe. What if Mbeki really thinks that there is a conspiracy out there against all liberation movements – including the ANC – and thus supports Mugabe because he sees Mugabe as the good guy and Tsvangirai as the bad guy puppet of the West, as “just another Tony Leon”?

Now, Mugabe might have twisted Mbeki’s words or Mbeki might have said what was reported without really believing it. If that is the case, we might be disappointed with Mbeki for his spineless and unprincipled stance of appeasement towards the dictator to the North, but we would not necessarily fear that our leader has lost his marbles. In a different context and if it was a different leader, the thought would not even have crossed my mind that Mbeki could be that paranoid and delusional. Such thoughts could easily be viewed as manifestations of the crudest kind of racism and stereotyping.

But then I recalled that Mbeki is the one who has questioned the link between HIV and AIDS and has suggested that the West had some sinister motive in pushing anti-retroviral drugs on Africans. I also recall that him and his lieutenants have often reverted to conspiracy theories to explain away problems. Most recently, Joel Netshitenze, head of the policy unit in the presidency, suggested last week in City Press that much of the high profile crimes might be committed with the explicit motive of embarrassing the government. He wrote that it might be coincidence, but still tells the NPA to “dig deeper than the empirical manifestations of the cases you handle”.

Why, for instance, was David Rattray murdered during the week of the anniversary of the Battle of Isandhlwana? Why is it that a few days after former rugby Springboks’ anti-crime march to the Union Buildings, one of them had his family attacked? Why is it that a few days after religious leaders issued a statement against crime, a church was robbed? And why is it that a senior official for Business Against Crime was attacked a few hours before he made a presentation to Parliament about the anti-crime partnership?

Why indeed? Maybe there is a third force out there who did all these things to show up Mbeki, Netshitenze suggests. Surely it’s the same people who stabbed an actress outside the SABC in Auckland Park two weeks after Mbeki said on television that no one would ever walk to the studio and get shot. Or maybe Mbeki and his advisers are shockingly paranoid and delusional and these things just happened because there are many nasty people out there who commit crimes.

I sure hope that either Mugabe or Mbeki was lying. If our President really believes that people want to get rid of Mugabe merely because he is a liberation struggle hero, then the sooner he retires the better.

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