Why South Africa must not bale Zimbabwe and why it would!

As Zimbabwe moves further and deeper into crisis, the world still looks on from a distance and utter mixed statements of condemnation and oddly so, admiration. Strengthened by the lack of consensus on the man-made crisis that Zimbabwe has come, Mugabe’s government has continued to deal harshly with opponents in the urban areas by unleashing a so-called slams clearance programme dubbed ‘operation murambatsvina” which has left many homeless. To pacify the critics of this programme, operation garikai” has been muted to restore the vanquished hopes of Mugabe’s victims. And for this, someone else other than Mugabe is expected to pay. Requests for an olive branch have been extended to many ‘friendly’ or ‘neutral’ countries, with south Africa and China topping the list.

Observers have suggested that “Mugabe prefers the loan shark who demands no internal reforms, to the more accountable loan demanding reform. ” In a letter to the editor (Business Day 26/07/05) Mark Wade contrasted the lack of facilities and skills to provide south Africans with decent housing, health care, social services, roads, city infrastructure – with the move to “give a banana republic dictator billions of our hard-earned rands to prop up a regime that has created the very policies that have destroyed his country.

However, others view this as an opportunity to get Mugabe towing the ling suggesting that “now that South Africa seems poised to bale out Zimbabwe … should finally pluck up the courage to extract maximum advantage for the people of that benighted country.” Such sentiments are reminiscent of those expressed when Mugabe won the controversial two-third majority making other observers suggest that, he would become a benevolent dictator and would want to show the world that he meant well also leaving behind a good legacy. More like teaching old dogs new tricks or like expecting sweet lemons?

The basis upon which a loan must be extended to Zimbabwe must be based on the effect of the loan for the affected Zimbabweans. Will the loan enhance their lives and improve their access to services and human dignity. The answer to these questions is already obvious given a reading of the manner in which the Zimbabwean government has conducted itself. President Mbeki’s argument that the loan would ensure that Zimbabwean problems do not spill into South Africa has surely passed its sell-by date. South African is already home to millions of Zimbabweans displaced by the ever-tumbling economy of that country. Mugabe claimed that he is in weekly contact with Mbeki and suggested that they share ideas. This revelation makes ‘quite diplomacy’ a thing of the past and suggest that Mbeki is in complicity with Mugabe in the humanitarian crisis that has visited the people of that country.

Anyone who has been following events in rural and urban South Africa would know about the spat of high intensity removals and evictions visited upon the urban and rural poors through South Africa’s own version of shacks clearance programme. Poor and landless people have been evicted without notice and alternative land and accommodation. These people face daily evictions from bond housing and private buildings in an espoused “war on shacks that has seen the poor and landless moved from shack to shack.”

Perhaps the most affected are the farm dwellers and farm workers community who face the most humiliating conditions from farm owners sanctioned by the Extension of Security of Tenure Act and the Labour Tenancy Act. Thabo Mbeki has failed to act decisively on these issues and the scourge of poverty has an unshakable impact on the masses of South African people. This makes Mbeki not different from Mugabe, and it would be hypocrisy for Mbeki to lecture on Mugabe on these rights which he has not been able to afford the poor.

Bailing Zimbabwe means an endorsement of the irresponsible programmes of government that wrought the economic and social woes bedeviling the poor and masses. This extended from the irresponsible managed land reform, through to the dubious operation restore order. It is expecting too much to think that any amount of money put into a ZANU PF government’s coffer would be put to any good use now. History does not judge Mugabe and his government well on this, especially since he embarked on the self-saving and apparently self-destructive route in the name of anti-imperialism and empowerment through land reform. The people of South Africa must look at more constructive, imaginative and creative ways of assisting the suffering masses of Zimbabwe. Bailing the Zimbabwe government is definitely not one of them.

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