By Andile Lungisa – the former deputy president of the ANC, Eastern Cape
30th November 2017
Sometimes foreign policy reveals much more about a political actor’s position on critical questions in domestic policy than the position they adopt on such matters at home.
Foreign policy, it has become trite to observe, is the continuation of domestic policy. It was on the basis of understanding the nature of the Nazi regime’s fascist policy at home – the genocide of the Jews, the snuffing out of democracy, the crushing of the trade unions, the repression of liberals, socialists and communists – that it was possible to predict the inevitability of the invasion of the Soviet Union long before the event and the disaster of the Second World War that followed.
The Democratic Alliance and the entire liberal establishment in the media displayed the same pitiful naivety as Stalin did at the time in ignoring reports from his own agents in Germany about Hitler’s preparations for war with such self-belief in his own counsel that he even signed a non-aggression pact with Germany not long before Hitler’s invasion.
The two situations are of course very, very different. But history is there to be learnt from. The price of failure is paid not by the politicians but by the people.
The Democratic Alliance and its ideological siblings in the media have exhausted untold amounts of capital portraying themselves as the praetorian guards of South Africa’s Constitution that they never struggled for. In fact, so seriously has the neocolonial liberal establishment taken its self-appointed role that the amount of time and resources it spends in court must compete with the amount of time and resources it spends in Parliament.
It is the Democratic Alliance’s political rituals “in defence of the Constitution” that have injected into South Africa’s political discourse the term “lawfare”.
Reacting to the crisis that unfolded in Zimbabwe, the Democratic Alliance and the entire liberal media simply waded in with the demand for Mugabe to step down and for early elections to be held. It was not for the Democratic Alliance and liberal high-minded sensibilities (to decide) such trifles as to whether the military’s intervention amounts to a de facto or de jure coup – let lone an abrogation of that country’s constitution.
Cde President Robert Mugabe’s ousting, a figure that had come to represent the crystallisation of the violent dismantling of white privilege in Zimbabwe, was all that counted for our erstwhile civilisers.
This was an opportunity, one could have expected, for the Democratic Alliance to apply its position in upholding the constitution in Zimbabwe with the same stridency they do at home; to have educated us all in matters constitutional. This is in fact a very disturbing revelation about the Democratic Alliance’s attitude not just to constitutionalism, but to democracy itself. It raises the legitimate question as to what position the Democratic Alliance can be expected to take should, heaven forbid, a similar development take place in South Africa.
In contrast to the official opposition’s de facto endorsement of an unconstitutional power grab, the Zimbabwean opposition Movement for Democratic Change Senator, David Coltart, spells out the implications of what has unfolded. “Zimbabwe simply cannot afford to have a de jure or de facto coup; once any change of power in any nation comes through a means other than the strict fulfilment of the constitution, in letter and spirit, a dangerous precedent is set which is hard to reverse… Zimbabwe faces a grave constitutional crisis. For all the ambiguity in General Constantine Chiwenga’s statement it challenges President Robert Mugabe either to turn his back on his wife and other members of the G40 faction or to face the wrath of the military.” (Daily Maverick, 16 Nov 2017)
It would be of great educational value for the Democratic Alliance and the “enlightened” liberal coterie to consider Coltart’s thought-through position.
The Democratic Alliance’s and liberals’ position is driven far less by concerns for the Zimbabwean people than to find itself on the right side of the West. In echoing the position of British and United States of America, both of which have in effect condoned the coup, the Democratic Alliance and the liberal establishment have followed the example of imperialist powers whose history is stained in the blood of millions who have suffered the consequences of their repeated interventions in the former colonial world.
It is hardly necessary to go too far back into the history of US imperialist interventions in what it considers its backyard in Latin America where they have engineered directly or sponsored the installation of client regimes of their choice in, for example, Guatemala, Honduras, Chile, Argentina, among others, or closer to home in the then Zaire and more recently Libya, to recognise that its attitude towards democracy and constitutionalism is one of complete contempt.
The absolute catastrophe of the Middle East today is a direct result of the invasion of Iraq which the US undertook with the promise to create an oasis of democracy. It treated the United Nations as a plaything with a presentation of a diagram “proving” the existence of weapons of mass destruction in one of modern history’s most despicable acts of deception.
The Democratic Alliance took great delight in mocking the Economic Freedom Fighters in the debate on its motion calling for the nationalisation of the banks. Like the devil quoting scripture, it liberally sprayed its reply to the motion with the language of Marxism, an ideology it hates with every fibre of its political being, repeatedly asking the EFF whose class interests nationalised banks would represent. The Democratic Alliance would do well to direct its pontification to the Zimbabwean military by asking them the same question.
Striking as South Africa’s official opposition’s hypocrisy is, the presence of the word “democratic” in its name flatters to deceive. This flirtatious attitude towards democracy is embedded in the historical DNA of a party that is the composite of the unapologetic racism of the National Party and the descendants of liberal ancestors who conceded to democratic rights for the majority after spending their entire lives opposing it as …. a threat to democracy!
Among the figures they draw their inspiration from is one Harry Oppenheimer whose narcissism is revealed in a sycophantic eulogy reviewed in the Mail & Guardian (17-23/11/17) with the nauseating title “A man of Africa – the Political Thoughts of Harry Oppenheimer” whose death some leaders of the African National Congress regrettably mourned with the words, “a great tree has fallen”.
The book reveals Oppenheimer’s repugnant racism. As the reviewer, Lloyd Gedey, puts it, this collection of essays about the man whose historical role inspired a book by the title South Africa Incorporated – the Oppenheimer Empire, “provides a window into the paternalism and white superiority embedded in the thinking of the mining magnate, and attempts to reinforce the idea that his opposition to apartheid was a strongly held conviction and not just driven by commercial interests”.
The “South Africa Incorporated reveals amongst others that Oppenheimer was the largest shareholder in Barclays Bank and sat on its board at a time when it invested more than 6 million pounds in the apartheid regime’s defence bonds, and supported its weapons development programme through another company he had a 50% interest in and that the tear gas used to suppress the Soweto uprising was manufactured by AECI, an Anglo American subsidiary.”
Among the gems of this man’s “thoughts” are revealed that: “In an essay commemorating Helen Suzman in 1990, Oppenheimer admits that he is concerned about the implications of majority rule in South Africa, arguing that a constitution modelled on Westminster could lead to a tyrannical majority. ‘I agree with Bertrand Russell, that if faced with making a choice between democracy and civilisation – one should always take civilisation’.”
Oppenheimer’s position on the Congo confirms that foreign policy is a continuation of domestic policy. “In a speech delivered in Kitwe, Zambia, he said: ‘What the Congo does show is that primitive, uncivilised people cannot be trusted with the running of a modern state, and that independent democracy is only possible if the electorate has reasonable standards of education and civilisation’.”
The detour on Oppenheimer and Helen Suzman are necessary insofar as it reveals the contemptuous and murderous attitude that our liberals have consistently held African people in.
It is regrettable that cultural and political disillusionment and seeming injection of silver coins among some leaders of the African National Congress have led them to find common cause with the oppressors of our people. While we would never condone extra legal means of acquiring power, we must recognise that the coup is a consequence of factional intrigues within Zanu-PF.
We also hope that the new rulers of that country place Zimbabweans at the centre of the rebuilding project.