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Professor Joseph Diescho believes South Africa needs to be put under an administration of a carefully and deliberately chosen team of men and women with the mental and intellectual acuity to dream big and to take bold steps

Before Professor Ali Mazrui died, he visited South Africa and spoke from a rather heavy heart about South Africa.

Like most wannabe African optimists, he acknowledged that South Africa was the promise of hope for the continent, just like she was the birthplace of the first liberation movement on the African continent. As an erstwhile chronicler of change from colonialism to flag independence in Africa, Mazrui discerned and put forth a political synthesis that the post-apartheid South Africa was a theatre of 4 Vs.

He described the 4 Vs as follows:

  1. South Africa was the site of black Victims of the white supremacist economic ideology aka apartheid.
  2. South Africa became the home of Victors against a crime against humanity with Nelson Mandela as the Victor-in-Chief.
  3. South Africa was heralded across the black world and beyond as the Vanguard of all-race democracy, human rights, and black triumph against all odds.
  4. South Africa could become the home of Villains—those black so-called revolutionaries turned black capitalists with an insatiable appetite for everything material and turned against the aspirations of the freedom struggle.

It would appear that Mazrui was not far from calling the spade a spade and not the big spoon in the garden. The once-upon-a-time shining hope for Africa and the world, South Africa, is now an international laughing stock under the African National Congress (ANC) that attracted the highest quota of international solidarity in the anti-apartheid struggle days. The ANC is now the villain in the body politic of South Africa.

South Africa is hardly recognisable. The pride is gone. Law and order are only in textbooks. Reconciliation is only heard about in churches on Sundays. The middle class, which is the engine of growth and development, is neither here nor there.

Greed is the middle name of almost every successful politician. Fear and hunger are the most loyal companions of law-abiding citizens. Darkness, both literally and figuratively, are the order of the day.

Theoreticians, motivational speakers, and African herbalists and prophets are spinning arguments and cures about the symptoms of the disease and dis-ease.

The center is just not holding, and things are falling apart.

Here is what went wrong:

  1. The most important CODESA process negotiated the process of ending the vulgar apartheid race relations BUT did not negotiate the dismantling of a race-based economy.
  2. The black polity that arrived at the trough of political power got carried away with their own images in the mirror and celebrated the end of the past without naming the future they wanted.
  3. Those at the pinnacle of the socioeconomic power relations imbibed a false consciousness of South African exceptionalism by virtue of their proximity to what is now glibly referred to as ‘white monopoly capital’. In so doing, they became the Lumpen Capitalists with overnight and unexplained personal wealth which pushed them to secede from the majority of black South Africans and the dreams of the Freedom Charter. When President Thabo Mbeki lamented and attempted to address this state of affairs of a country wherein two distinct economies existed and threatened future stability, he was misunderstood and excised. On his side, Mbeki did not build a critical disciplined discipleship around his vision and mission to transform South Africa.
  4. South Africans generally and the financial sector became patently star-struck in that fewer than 10 South Africans, such as Cyril Ramaphosa, Matthews Phosa, Saki Macozoma, Danisa Baloyi, Wendy Luhabe, and Patrice Motsepe became high priests of black economic empowerment. Perhaps with the best of intentions, they were everywhere on boards of directors and nowhere to enable other black South Africans to serve on those boards as a mechanism to ‘redistribute’ service and wealth.
  5. The BEE stars became victims of the pervasive psychosis that besets the former oppressed black people the world over, namely, the desire to be celebrated as The First Black, The Only Black, The Best Black, The Richest Black, and The Different Black! There is desktop evidence that at times some of the BEE high priests served on more than twenty-five boards of directors each, harvesting sitting fees with their signatures of the multiple attendance registers.
  6. The ANC was part of this new culture in that the ANC was the right of passage to opulence. There was a time when Matthews Phosa was the Treasurer of the ANC. These few well-financed and well-connected South African AmaBlacks were literally chauffeured from one board meeting to the other, harvesting sitting fees to top up the shares they had acquired on the backs of national freedom. As if that was not hurtful enough, Matthews Phosa consented to become the (chairman) Voorsitter van die Afrikaanse Taal en Kultuurvereniging (ATKV).
  7. The post-apartheid political leadership in South Africa either became fatigued or lost interest in the future. Compared to the Afrikaner seizure of power by which the previously economically disadvantaged ‘arm blankes’ or Boere used state power to uplift themselves, the black political elite did not ask fundamental questions about what it means to be in charge of the state—a sophisticated state like South Africa at that. The new political elite lost both sight and track of the make up of the apartheid economic architecture and totally failed to deconstruct it in order to reconstitute and reconstruct it in accordance with the Vision of the Freedom Charter and the make up of a New South Africa. Black super-rich politicians continued to preside with a false sense of selftriumphalism over the old ugly and vulgar realities of apartheid South Africa. Hence the dismal failure of Eskom, Transnet, Denel, the South African Post Office, and arguably all other drivers of the economy to respond to national realities and plan accordingly. In the end, South Africa was going forward, fast, but in reverse.

One must wonder in light of what is known today, what would have happened if the South African economy was transferred into the hands of a black majority in the 1990s. The consequences would have been too ghastly to contemplate!

What now?

In all fairness, South Africa needs to wake up and smell not the coffee, but the stench of the dirt on its roads. In that dirt are dead human bodies decomposing. There are three immediate scenario options:

  1. Allow the country to disintegrate until it reaches an untenable point of total decay similar to a national genocide.
  2. Convene as a matter of urgency an ‘Economic CODESA’ to hammer out a new South Africa without the hostilities of apartheid, but with the new realities of governance incompetence, comrade job creation, endemic state corruption, patently poor education planning, and emotional foreign policy thinking.
  3. Place South Africa as a country UNDER ADMINISTRATION! This is to be embarked upon with a fierce urgency of NOW.

The author’s bet is on Option 3—to place the country under an administration of a carefully and deliberately chosen team of men and women with the mental and intellectual acuity to dream big and to take bold steps to reframe, reset, and reboot the country with great courage and a spirit of ‘Renovatio Ab Initio’ (renovation from the bottom up).

For starters, this team of men and women on the ‘Road Less Travelled’ could be chaired by Prof. Nyameko Barney Pityana, a seasoned mover-shaker and fixer, in contemplative concert with other serious and clear-eyed South Africans such as Clem Sunter, Dr Maphela Ramphele, Retired Justices Dikgang Moseneke, Yvonne Mokgoro, Johan Van Der Westhuizen, Profs. Itumeleng Mosala, Lesiba Teffo, Sibusiso Vil-Nkomo, Somadoda Fikeni, Thuli Madonsela, Derrick Swartz, Bonang Mohale, Loyiso Nongxa, Tshilidzi Marwala, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, Dr Saths Cooper, Elder Mavuso Msimang, and a selected invited business personages members from women and youth formations.

The central assignment of this formidable group is not to end apartheid, but to RECONSTRUCT South Africa so that she regains her aspirational honour and be placed onto the trajectory that the country is indeed the South Africa that Nelson Mandela dreamed of—the land where all persons can live in peace and harmony and have equal opportunity. A microcosm of the New World Order with a Black Star pointing South, North, East, and West!

Professor Joseph Diescho is currently a Visiting Fellow in the Center for Advanced Security, Strategic and Integration Studies at the University of Bonn, Germany. He is a graduate of the University of Fort Hare and Columbia University. He was imprisoned as a student activist in Peddie and East London in the Eastern Cape after the assassination of the Black Consciousness Movement, Stephen Biko. He worked for ten years at the University of South Africa and later as Executive Director of the Namibia Institute of Public Administration and Management.

By Editor