Graphic: Timothy Alexander/African News Agency (ANA)
By Dr Wallace Mgoqi
It was in 2002 when a Land Conference was held in Cape Town after Zimbabwe experienced the land grabs, started in 1999 in that country by the likes of War veterans like Chenjerai “Hitler” Hunzvi and others. It was now three years into Jambanja, ( a struggle word in the local dialect for the land grabbing ) and white farmers had land they had settled on taken away from them, with the government providing no protection for them, in fact on the contrary President Robert Mugabe (who is now late) condoning the actions of the land grabbers.
In South Africa, I was at the helm of the land restitution process, as the National / Chief Land Claims Commissioner, at the time, boasting about having a constitutional and legislative framework within which our land reform process was taking place. In fact, we were even able to dissuade some land activists who wanted to copy-cat what was happening in Zimbabwe, by pointing out that here we had a policy, constitutional and legislative framework, and therefore could not embark upon similar actions here.
During that conference, in one of the evenings at the Table Bay hotel, these African intellectual giants, I found myself in their midst, the likes of Prof Sam Moyo, Dr Ibbo Mandaza and others, engaged in deep intellectual conversations on land matters.
Dr Ibbo Mandza, a well-renowned economist and intellectual from Zimbabwe, in that informal discussion, over drinks, made an apocalyptic statement, which has stayed with me to this day. As we were discussing land reform in the two countries, sensing that South Africans had a chip on the shoulder about how things were looking at the time, less than ten years into democracy, Dr Ibbo Mandaza, made a rather strange apocalyptic statement, along the lines: “ South Africans, a chill goes down my spine, when I think about how badly things can go in your country, when they do, they will make what we are seeing happening now in Zimbabwe, look like a Sunday picnic “.
Even though it was difficult to comprehend where he was coming from with this, it hit me very hard, and I have not forgotten it to this day. I have repeated it, a number of times, ever since, to those in my circles.
This week, Eskom announced stage six load-shedding and an energy expert said she was reluctant to make the comparison between the two countries, South Africa and Zimbabwe. She mentioned people in Zimbabwe endured being without electricity for around eighteen hours a day and that when we reach stage eight of load-shedding, we too shall be without electricity for that long.
Again the apocalyptic words of Dr Ibbo Mandaza came back to haunt me. I think that we should cancel and reverse these words and embrace rather the opposite of an apocalypse- things like a good thing, wonder, good fortune, favour, success, prosperity, boom, plenteousness, richness, felicity, comfort, security, life, liberty, and happiness.
Karen Moolman of the Green Connection lists what she calls the Doughnut Economics which involves The Safe & Just Space For Humanity as well as a Regenerative & Distributive Economy, encapsulating :
.Income and work
.Peace & Justice
All of these constitute the foundation for a well-ordered society, wherein members of society are nurtured to grow to their full human potential. Sadly, in our country, this entire foundation has been eroded over the years through acts of neglect or failure to preserve what was there and sheer rampant and widespread corruption and greed,on a monumental scale.
If we are to cancel and reverse the apocalyptic words pronounced upon us as a nation, we must take very conscious and deliberate steps to work towards bringing into fruition, the fruits of the opposite of an apocalypse, so that we can have the benevolent and well-ordered society, we all desire to live in.
I have never, for a moment, doubted Dr Ibbo Mandaza’s motive in saying what he said at the time, so prophetically, one would say now, with the benefit of hindsight. As a revolutionary and a Pan-Africanist, he is a man of integrity and honesty, and very forthright in the way he relates to people. There can be no doubt that he loves this country dearly as he loves other African countries. At worst he was trying to prick the over-inflated egos of South Africans, the oversized mental image they had of themselves and their country, they were overconfident in their country and its future, making no room for fault lines that would manifest only later. Hardly a decade elapsed before the fault lines began to show up.
We are now in an apocalyptic state and we must get out of the hole. It is suffocating, to go without the things that we were meant to have, like water, food, health, sanitation, education, income and work energy etc, our lives are turned upside down. We are dehumanised and debased. We begin to ask ourselves: Is life worth living? The weakest members in our midst resort to taking their lives, as hope fades away every minute.
Human rights instruments around the world recognize that citizens in a country have certain unalienable rights that they may not be deprived of, among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. When the basic things we alluded to above have been eroded, how can the citizens pursue life, liberty and happiness?
“…That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. “ [ US Declaration of Independence :
A transcription, in Congress, July 4, 1776 ], We are currently undergoing the pain of everything collapsing that we are looking to our government to fix, but they have failed us miserably. They have an obsession to cling to power for as long as possible, for the benefits and privileges that go with political power.
It is important for us not to waste our painful experience, by electing the same leaders, who have let us down. Every painful experience can be turned into a positive testimony, provided that it is not wasted by repeating the same conduct, again and again. We cannot afford to behave like a rat trapped in a maze, not knowing how to find its way out.
Hopefully, in future elections, we shall think very carefully, about how we exercise our vote, in a way that will end our misery, and turn the apocalypse into a kaleidoscope of positive experiences, like wonder, prosperousness, health, good fortune, success, felicity, good things, life, liberty and happiness.
We are endowed with minds that are capable of looking back on what we have gone through – the benefit of hindsight, analysing it and choosing differently from before.
Failure to do so can only lead as Brutus meant in Shakespeare’s often-quoted passage that the key to success in life lies in knowing that a tide or simply the motivation of man, and it is up to a man to recognize, and seize the opportunity.
“There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.” – Julius Caesar, by William Shakespeare
Dr Wallace Mgoqi, Advocate of the High Court, Doctor of Laws. He is also the chairman of Ayo Technology Solutions Ltd.