What are FRDE and Mr. Dibble Talking About in this thread?

The important words are ‘so far’. Zimbabwe under Mugabe wasn’t bad to start with. But I too see a very large (90%+) chance of South Africa going the same way.


Total catatonics know that there have been racial tensions there – and that a lot of effort, from some remarkable people, have been put into reconciliation and stability.

I’m not averse to facing an unpleasant truth, but so far what we’ve got is, and please excuse the offense, navel-gazing by FRDE and yourself, Quartz, that you foresee another Mugabe situation. And people who live there or who have family living there are denying any such likelihood. I guess I’m more or less asking, Cite? – what evidence leads the two of you to that conclusion? Why do you foresee a bloodbath, or whatever?

For my own part, learning. I’ve also been to Africa, and my brother does a lot of work there. The slide to chaos, corruption, and poverty has happenned in just about every other African nation in Africa. Don’t get me wrong: I’d love for South Africa to transition to a multiracial nation of harmony. But I just don’t see it happenning.

In other words, just because. Hardly a debateable position. <lol>

What? Quartz quite clearly thinks that there will be a slide into chaos, corruption and poverty because it has happened in just about every other African nation. You may agree or disagree, but his reasoning is emphatically not “just because”.

What “reasoning”?

C’mon Colibri. Are you honestly saying that “A, B & C exhibit behaviour X, and D has some commonality with A, B & C so I think it too will exhibit behaviour X” is not reasoning? It may not be good or strong reasoning, but to suggest it is “just because” is crap.

I think this one can only be sorted out in Great Debates. Moved.

samclem GQ moderator

Well, time will tell.

Probably GD is the best place for this.

First let me state my position, I totally disapprove of apartheid and I judge people (harshly) by what is in their head - ‘culture’ as I think MrDibble said earlier. I also dislike what has happened in Africa and feel sorry for all involved.

As I see it, the major problem is that Africa has porous borders, the only real barrier is the Sahara. Consequently troubles in Darfour spread over into Chad, troubles in Somalia spread over into Kenya, disaffected Zimbabweans are turning up in South Africa.

Where you get migration of large numbers of people, you get poverty, slums, violence and criminality. You get a sense of impermanence, so any sensible person tries to grab as much for themselves - in effect corruption becomes rational.

There is also a strong tendency for people to migrate from the country where they have a subsistence level existence, to towns where they think that they will be better off.

Probably the only thing that holds people together is ‘tribalism’, but the downside of that is that leaders tend to be selected for who they know rather than ability. It seems that in South Africa there is a demand for ‘token directors’ of companies, who get paid rather well - but only contribute their contacts. It was interesting listening to one of them on BBC’s World Service (the UK version is the one they broadcast to Africa).

I reckon that the two conditions for an affluent society are stability and education.

Both are difficult to accomplish with infinite migration.

Interestingly Mugabe ran into the migration problem, his slum clearance was harsh, but it was easy to see why he did it.

As I see it, South Africa needs to eliminate inward and internal migration and concentrate on giving its own population a vested interest in stability. I’m not sure that is possible.

Now that’s a more reasoned explanation. While I think you’re right in the main as to the rest of Africa, I don’t think it applies to South Africa. Here’s why:

  • South Africa also largely has natural barriers to migration across most of the frontier - Namib-Kalahari-Limpopo are all natural barriers, and the Kruger Park is a large artificial one. While there are large numbers of immigrants, both legal and illegal, I don’t think they are as high as they might be without those impedances.
  • South Africa is a much more pluralistic country than most other African ones, with substantial White and Coloured population, which I think goes towards counteracting a complete breakdown a-la Sudan or Rwanda with their essentially binary divisions.
  • Unlike a lot of Africa, South Africa has a diverse economy, including elements of a first world economy like manufacturing and service industries. It’s therefore a lot less dependent on large foreign corporations like e.g. Nigeria or DRC was. In fact, some of the largest corporations in several different categories are based in or partly based in South Africa, like SAB-Miller breweries, De Beers, Anglo-American. That continued economic stability means that even if e.g. farming suffers, the whole economy doesn’t go down the tubes like Zimbabwe.
  • Lastly, I don’t think the diversity of our politics is to be discounted. Currently, the ANC is in power because of an alliance with the Communist Party and trade unions. But as ideologies have diverged post-apartheid, rifts have opened. This is great, because it stops us being the one-party state that so many other dictatorships spring from, and it only gets better.

I also think the strong liberal bent of our Constitution (and its enactment) helps us. We have one of the most forward-thinking Constitutions in the world, but it’s not toothless and backed up by both the Constitutional Court and, surprisingly, by the ruling party. Witness recently where the ANC pushed through the Gay Marriage Act because the ConCourt said it had to, over the objections of some of its own conservative members.

I have no illusions about South Africa ever being Paradise, but I think anyone whose only experience with Africa is the rest of it, really isn’t in any position to draw comparisons. Our somewhat distinct history and demographics have made us very different from the rest of the continent.

Good points.

South Africa does have a diversified economy, some of it very First World and from what I can understand it is pretty cautious of being ‘raped’ by European/US interests. Although I suspect SAB of a little overseas diversification.
That Barclays buying in also might really be someone buying out.

That diversification is unusual in Sub Saharan Africa - although Zimbabwe was good at garment manufacture - a labour intensive operation that can be a good cash crop.

Re migration, my understanding is that the ‘Pass Laws’ were really to prevent migration, at risk of sounding obnoxious I suspect that something similar is needed - one cannot rely on plain glass spectacles to work out who should or should not be there.

Although Sudan has a binary division, I’ve a suspicion that it is a bit more complicated, they want to hang on to the South East because there is oil there (all sorted now, despite the helicopter crash), Darfour looks like an insurgency where two pretty similar populations have decided to be different.

The test of a stable state is when both government and opposition have more in common with each other than the general population - it allows for change without revolution.

You are right, I should really see what is going on, extrapolating from Ghana, Sudan, disaffected emigrees and the (rather interesting) BBC World Service are no substitute.

Out of interest why do you reckon that SA is reluctant to intervene in Zimbawe ?
Mugabe needs a luxurious home and good medical care, SA could provide both on an informal basis. It looks as if the place is imploding because nobody is in control.

Possibly an example of what could happen?

Just a note of thanks to both you gentlemen, FRDE and Mr Dibble, for explaining that line of thought and for the rebuttal. My own impressions, which are not particularly well founded, tend to run more towards Mr Dibble’s view – South Africa is not “an African country” in some stereotypical sense – there seems to be much more sense of a commitment to pluralism and to rule of law there than in most places.

I’d like to say thanks, too, as someone who knew nothing about the subject. This thread went from bizarre to educational so fast I got whiplash.

Favours owed for having the ANC’s back during The Struggle. I think that line of credit has just run out, though.

What makes you say that - what has been the tipping point do you think?


I say that because the official SADC line has just become harder in the last two weeks - Zambian President for instance recently made some comments that I don’t think he’d have made a month ago, and our guys too.

Reasons? I’m not sure, but I think the recent beatings of MDC pols (the aftermath is still being heavily televised over here) have something to do with it, in addition to a continued refugee crisis throughout the region. TV here has recently shown a documentary shot by a Zimbabwean about Zim refugees trying to get to South Africa - how they get preyed on by bandits, how some get to SA and then get taken right back to the border posts. I’m sure this has had some impact on the support for the ANC’s “quiet diplomacy” - I think even the pols are realising it just isn’t working, and that Bob has no intention of stepping down and going quietly. His preparing to change the Zim constitution to allow a longer term for himself may have been the final straw.

Interesting stuff - I heard on the World Service that Zimbabwean military and/or policemen were scuttling off to SA as they had not been paid for months.

Possibly they were running an escort service for other refugees.

Migrants are tricky as you can cart them back, but they keep on trying, the Spanish had to resort to shooting them after they stormed Ceuta. So they turned their attention to Senegal.