Monday, April 27, 2009

Do we get the leaders that we deserve?

About four years ago I developed a severe crush on South Africa and started sniffing out the similarities between the Rainbow Nation and my beloved Paradise. There are a number of superficial ones: Mandela? Nyerere. Mbeki? Mkapa. ANC? CCM. Gold? Big Mining. There are also a number of not-so-superficial similarities. Mandela? Nyerere. Mbeki? Mkapa. ANC? CCM. Gold? Big Mining. But South Africa was a Dutch and British settler colony while Tanganyika and Zanzibar could charitably be called the red-headed stepchildren of the British Empire. And so our post-majority-rule histories diverge. Apartheid? Ujamaa.

Centuries of colonial endeavour have given South Africa that Europe-away-from-Europe feel that is so essential to passing as a Developed Nation. Thus our Saffie compatriots got into the habit of calling everything north of the Limpopo 'Africa,' as in "I'm going to Africa this week on a business trip, to Tanzania." An tenuous position to be sure, but maybe not so unexpected since the whole world has been blowing smoke up South Africa's ass about their exceptionalism for the past fifteen years. In spite of this attitude and the violent xenophobia it has enabled, I was seriously hoping that South Africans (especially members of the ANC) would prove to be exceptional after all by avoiding a Zuma presidency.

Ah, well.

1994: Nelson Mandela (Moral Authority: Morgan Freeman in Driving Miss Daisy). 1999: Thabo Mbeki (Moral Authority: Danny Glover in Bopha!). 2009: Jacob Zuma (Moral Authority: Chris Brown circa The Rihanna Battery Incident)

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