gtag('config', 'UA-12595121-1'); ‘Zimbabwe will eventually transition to a new generation of leaders’ – The Zimbabwe Mail

‘Zimbabwe will eventually transition to a new generation of leaders’

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Today (27 April) the new South Africa is 30 years old. Can you believe it was 30 years ago when Mandela stood outside the main Government buildings in Pretoria and launched the new Republic under a democratic government.

Time to reflect and look forward to the next elections in South Africa at the end of May. Across the Atlantic another country is preparing to go into elections and because the USA is still the largest economy in the world, this has consequences for all of us.

When looking back in South Africa, we have to acknowledge the amazing transition from several hundred years of white settler government starting in the Cape in the 1500’s.

This culminated in 45 years of Apartheid – that ideology of the Afrikaner nation that sought to avoid adopting an integrated society by proposing ‘separate but equal development’. Now we are nearing the end of the ANC era in Government as the dominant force.

My Grandfather was in the Smuts Cabinet in 1949 when the National Party in South Africa came to power. Graham Cross was a lawyer who had spent his life among the Afrikaner community as a Magistrate in several rural Provinces.

He was totally fluent in the language and most of his friends and colleagues were Afrikaners. Smuts was a lifelong friend. He told me that he was confident that eventually the Afrikaners would see the folly of Apartheid and remedy the situation it created.

It took 45 years but once they had decided that change was necessary, they did what was required. They have not been given adequate recognition for that.

Let’s recognise what the Afrikaners achieved during the time they were in near absolute control of the State. When they took power, it was just 4 years after the conclusion of the Second World War. The global economy was only just getting back on its feet.

The Afrikaners had massive social problems in their community, a third of their number were in absolute poverty, they were predominately rural and the English speaking community was still largely in control of the industrial and commercial economy.

In the next 45 years they developed one of the most advanced economies in Africa, kept their currency stable and raised living standards significantly.

The infrastructure was expanded and modernised and basic services were provided to the majority even though the white population continued to benefit in a much larger way than the great majority of the population.

Afrikaner poverty was nearly eliminated. In achieving these things, they created a powerful State which discriminated against the majority systematically and isolated the country on a scale seldom seen before.

Domestic and regional conflict became inevitable and while the rest of the Continent was throwing off the mantle of colonial occupation and control, South Africa became an international pariah State.

The transfer of power to the oldest Liberation Movement in Africa, the African National Congress (ANC), under a locally negotiated Constitution and a national election on the basis of universal suffrage, has to be among the most significant political transitions in history.

The culmination of this process was not so much Mandela’s speech on the steps of Union Buildings in 1994 but when he walked out of Prison, a free man, in February 1990.

He was the perfect choice to lead South Africa out of the debris of Apartheid and into a new future. However, once he retired from Office, his successors did not do well for all the reasons those of us understand have plagued the history of Africa post colonisation.

The consequences are not pretty, urban area services are failing across the country, crime is rampant, unemployment a major problem, corruption is so serious that it threatens all aspects of everyday life.

But it is still a democracy, its Constitution and legal system continues to hold sway and to hold people accountable when asked to do so. Its media is vigorous and defends individual liberties and human rights and shines a light into most of the dark recesses of State.

Perhaps one of the most astonishing aspects of this history is that the Afrikaner speaking community remains perhaps the largest linguistic community in South Africa, its language and culture intact.

In addition, this group remains the dominant player in the economy with many Afrikaner companies playing a major role on the world stage.

Perhaps an example is Naspers Limited with its Headquarters in Cape Town, now one of the largest media and IT businesses in the world. They are also the backbone of one of the most successful agricultural industries in Africa.

All of this is now under threat together with the stability of South Africa and this is a threat to the rest of the region.

One example of this was the orchestrated violence in Natal when billions of Rands damage was done to infrastructure and industry and the biggest Port in Africa was seriously damaged and has still not recovered.

So, what is at stake in South Africa? It looks as if the institutions of Government remain in a sound functioning condition and will survive. But it has long been projected that this time the ANC will lose its clear majority.

Yesterday the latest poll suggested 37 per cent for the ANC and 25 per cent for the DA. 13 per cent for the MK and 9 for the EFF and 5 per cent for Umkhonto.

This means we are either in the space for a National Unity Government of the ANC and minority groups or a Coalition Government.

We in Zimbabwe have been there and done that Unity thing, it really is tough going. Coalitions are fragile and take time. Look at the chaos in Scotland right now. But it does usher in a new measure of uncertainty.

For me, like here in Zimbabwe, we are now in an era when there will eventually be a transition to a new generation of leaders.

Only once this happens will be see South Africa regain its self confidence and stability with growth, because the ‘born frees’ are a completely new dispensation.

In the USA, the 2024 elections play out on the largest stage in the world and its again not a pretty sight. I have absolutely no time for Trump who I think is not fit in any way to be the leader of the most powerful nation in the world.

But at the same time, although I admire President Biden and think he has done a great job in the past 4 years, it really is time he handed the baton on to the next generation.

Every Chief Executive must know when it is time to go and have the courage to do so. He will win in November but does he really need another four years of that pressure and strain?

Then let’s not forget or play down the importance of the elections underway in India. What a fantastic story that is, 900 million voters, all captured electronically and counted automatically.

The fastest growing economy in the world and will eventually be one of the great super powers along with the USA, China, Japan and the EU.

But no religious freedom and Hindu Nationalism a massive threat to stability and growth, still Modi has been amazing as a leader. India, not China, will be the economy of the 21st Century.

I think India should be the home of the Commonwealth, not London, after all its founder was not English but an Afrikaner, Jan Smuts.

And I think the Commonwealth, not BRICS, would offer Africa a better pathway into the future. But the building bricks of these future alliances are being created in the elections now underway, in this Year and we all have a role to play.

Eddie Cross
Harare, 27th April 2024