A great read given the current political turmoil in South Africa.
We might think, as South Africa continues to lurch from crisis to crisis, that this is probably the worst we’ve had to endure since the ANC came to power in 1994.
But the kleptocracy and rampant corruption which have characterised Jacob Zuma’s presidency have their origins back in the 1990s, even before Thabo Mbeki took over the presidency from Nelson Mandela.
Remember the arms deal? Remember Travelgate? Remember Sarafina 2? I’ve been reading Tony Leon’s autobiography, On The Contrary, which was published in 2008. It provides a fascinating insight into, and indeed an authoritative history of, that era.
He deals extensively with the change of approach when Mbeki took over as president in 1999. Out went Mandela’s policy of reconciliation among the races and in came one of retribution, as Mbeki sought to exploit supposed white guilt for all it was worth.
The changing of colonial names was always high on the ANC’s agenda, and remains so today. I remember ANC city councillors in Port Elizabeth expressing the desire to destroy a statue of Queen Victoria on the market square.
My predictions regarding an “iconoclastic orgy” against colonial-era monuments came true in 2014, when the anarchic “fallist” campaign was launched with Nazi-like fervour. Attacks on such monuments began in earnest when the Cecil John Rhodes statue at the University of Cape Town was targeted. Copycat attacks were carried out across South Africa.
The early 2000s saw Mbeki take a disgraceful dissident stand against the globally accepted and scientifically proven view that HIV causes Aids. He and his health ministers (first Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, then Manto Tshabalala-Msimang) clashed with Democratic Party/Alliance leader Leon, as well as with the Treatment Action Campaign, over this issue. Meanwhile, HIV-positive people died in their thousands as they were denied antiretrovirals.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, in the early 2000s Mbeki and Dlamini-Zuma (by now foreign minister) sided with Robert Mugabe as the Zimbabwean president – with Mandela stepping down, the senior liberation struggle leader in Southern Africa – set about forcing productive white commercial farmers from their land. In just a few years, Mugabe destroyed one of the strongest economies in the sub-continent.
We continue to sit with the results today as millions of Zimbabweans fled to South Africa, or further afield, and that country, still under the yoke of Zanu-PF oppression, remains a failed state.
So anyway, in 2004, the Herald newspaper finally decided they would no longer publish my articles attacking the ANC’s policy on Aids, Zimbabwe, etc. My response was to self-publish this book, which deals satirically with all the above issues.
I set the story a decade or so in the future. Clearly, some 12 years later, things have not turned out quite as badly on some fronts as I predicted.
But I believe the underlying message of this book remains relevant, particularly at a time when the “decolonisation” campaign is gathering momentum on our campuses.
Oh, and at the time Taliban leader Dullah Omar and al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden were among the most wanted men on earth. They play a cameo role in this story.