Zimbabwe Watch

Zimbabwe fast becoming an ANC albatross

A friendship gone sour

Deafening South African government silence about developments in Zimbabwe and a remarkably naïve ANC reaction will see both end up on the wrong side of history, but not so Julius Malema.

It does not make sense – it rather defies logic!

The economy of South Africa’s northern neighbour, Zimbabwe, is on the verge of collapsing, if it hasn’t already. The Mugabe regime is bankrupt and cannot pay its bloated civil service nor service its sovereign debt.


Taking hypocrisy to a new level, President Mugabe recently dispatched his Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Patrick Chinamasa, begging hat in hand, to the capitals of the “despicable and evil West” for financial assistance.

Chinamasa visited the same countries accused of being responsible for Zimbabwe’s woes, due to them introducing sanctions in response to rigged elections and the trampling of human rights.

Desperate to save the little forex still available, the Mugabe regime two weeks ago introduced the highly controversial Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016, blocking imports of a long list of basic goods, including food from South Africa.

It had ruinous consequences for the people of Zimbabwe and the economy of border town Musina, Limpopo. The loss to Limpopo businesses already exceeds US$10 million in potential business, forcing some who rely on cross-border trade to close their doors.

Dangerous situation        

Zimbabwe’s security forces’ salaries were not paid on time two months in a row – a dangerous situation for Mugabe who almost exclusively relies on the unqualified support of those forces to stay in power.

With a failing economy, a crippling drought and massive unemployment, Zimbabweans have had enough.

Since April, the banks’ lack of cash limits amounts customers can withdraw. Massive private sector retrenchments and very slim prospects for economic improvement in the near future also contributed to the spontaneous citizen response across the country, mounting street protests, boycotts and stay-away actions to demonstrate displeasure with current malaise and with those responsible – the corrupt and repressive Mugabe government and his ZANU-PF party.    

Significantly, many from the middle class joined the poor from townships in the protests. A record number of professionals lost their jobs in the last year as many companies went into liquidation, swelling ever-growing unemployment figures.

Privately owned weekly, The Zimbabwe Independent, summed up the situation as:  “People from across the political and social divide are gradually but surely emerging from the depths of docility and despair to not only challenge, but also confront Mugabe, his mediocrities and lackeys.”

Outrageous SA reaction

The South African government’s official response to the events has been markedly low-keyed, but not unexpected.

Historically, illustrated by former President Mbeki’s “quiet diplomacy” (one of the main reasons for the current conditions in Zimbabwe), it has been problematical for the ANC-led government to publically criticise the Mugabe regime.     

Both former liberation movements, the ANC and ZANU-PF, have much in common and past Zimbabwean support indebted the ANC to Mugabe and ZANU-PF.

A protest leader outside Zimbabwe’s Cape Town consulate, recently tellingly remarked: “If our neighbour South Africa is keeping quiet with everything that is happening in Zimbabwe, it means they are fine with everything that is happening there.”

Some outrageous public remarks did, however, come from ANC Secretary General, Gwede Mantashe. He claimed that “sponsored elements are seeking to effect regime change in the region", echoing Harare’s familiar blame game response.

The Mugabe cabal has already accused, as per their custom, the US and, strangely, France and not Britain, for “sponsoring” the protests. And that, in the wake of France pledging its support to the recent begging tour of Minister Chinamasa to clear Zimbabwe’s debt, allowing it to approach the IMF for fresh loans.

Mantashe also said: “The struggling Zimbabwean economy, which has been going on for a long time, should not give licence to regime change elements to revive restlessness in Zimbabwe.

 “Every citizen of Zimbabwe should appreciate the difficulties and contribute positively in the regulation of the Zimbabwean economy.”

One could ask why ordinary Zimbabweans should “appreciate the difficulties and contribute positively… ” if the situation is not their doing, but caused by a corrupt and despotic ZANU-PF Mugabe regime.

At stake is not propping up a corrupt, disintegrating regime, but finding workable solutions to save Zimbabwe from total collapse, lest South Africa and the rest of the region suffer the consequences. South Africa, in particular, will not escape the fall-out from a failed Zimbabwe.

Some backbone

South Africa’s Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), however, did show some grit and determination to resolve some problems stemming from the Zimbabwean situation. DTI director-general, Lionel October, in reaction to Zimbabwe’s unilateral ban on South African imports and additional duties on exporters, said, “We cannot accept the way our exporters are being treated”, indicating that steps will be taken.  

Zimbabwe’s action is in breach of Southern African Development Community (SADC) protocol and will be taken up at ministerial and technical level.


Probably the upcoming municipal elections and the fact that the border area with Zimbabwe is his home territory have much to do with it, but Economic Freedom Fighters’ (EFF) Commander-in-Chief, Julius Malema, took a stance diametrically opposed to that of the ANC.

If the response of the ANC reaffirmed that party’s unwillingness face up to the facts in Zimbabwe with appropriate action, Malema seems to have made an absolute about-turn.

Malema’s idolatry of Mugabe is well documented and in the past he defended Mugabe and his controversial policies to the hilt and at great length.

Only a year ago he justified the suffering of ordinary Zimbabweans, praising Mugabe as, “the only leader who knows for the real change to come. Africans will have to go through the necessary pain, exactly what Zimbabweans are going through now”.

But, ever the opportunistic politician, in the face of the present developments, he has now declared: “We are on the side of the people of Zimbabwe.”

The Mugabe regime’s response was scathing. A statement by its Information, Media and Broadcasting Services minister described Malema’s reaction as a “laughable attempt at turning himself into a trans-border politician on behalf of reactionary forces in the region and beyond, exposing his agenda and ignorance of regional politics.

“Zimbabweans had no time for Malema’s cheap talk whose party attracts support and sponsorship of oppressive racial capital, while falsely dressing themselves in the garb of exploited workers.”

Danger of ostrich politics

It is by no means certain that this latest wave of protests will hasten the inevitable demise of the Mugabe regime – despite being described by commentators as “different” and a “new and unique development”, because the forefront of the “struggle” are the “people themselves” and not opposition parties.

Some of the leaders of the protests, chiefly organised via social media, cautioned that it will be difficult to sustain the protests because of the usual threats and intimidation.

However, the writing is on the wall for Mugabe and the ZANU-PF. If the ANC and South African government prefer to bury their heads in the sand, they will sooner, rather than later, find themselves on the wrong side of history.

Malema, on the other hand, by being a political chameleon, might be able to claim that, by shifting allegiance, he was on the side of history – and he would be correct, because at 92 Mugabe simply cannot be Zimbabwe’s future.

by Garth Cilliers

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