Since South Africa’s momentous crossing of the Jordan into its promised land of freedom and democracy for all, the continent has had its eye fixed on this nation to spearhead the deliverance of prosperity for all African states.
The headache for South Africa is not simply the vastness of the motherland nor the wide ranging types of needs facing African states but also how it can justify expanding its foreign aid when internal “toyi toying” is escalating to the same heights it reached in the 70's and the turbulent 80's.
Lack of Action
Since South Africa’s momentous crossing of the Jordan into its promised land of freedom and democracy for all, the continent has had its eye fixed on this nation to spearhead the deliverance of prosperity.
In recent years South Africa has been criticised for its lack of alignment with the African continent. Often harshly criticised for not “realising they are part of Africa”, the most successful country has at times not played the expected part of leading or supporting countries who find themselves in dire need of assistance or rescue. Without delving into the horrors of the xenophobic attacks, or when Somalia found itself in yet another famine, it was international aid that first came to the fore to assist. The government of South Africa was embarrassingly slow in its response. The on-going crisis in Zimbabwe has often been blamed on lack of action on the part of South Africa as they are accused of not taking firm enough action against a perceived dictator in their role as mediators.
It would seem to the man on the ground that this leadership has turned its back on Africa and forgotten the role this nation should be playing on the global village scale as a leading authority. With its own problems, includingunemployment and poverty many have justified South Africa’s standoffish stance as realistic considering problems at home are more pressing than problems abroad. But a hard truth is many of the country’s issues are as a result of migrants and so in taking time to address and aid efforts to rectify problems in the rest of the continent, many of South Africa’s own problems will be rectified in the process.
Making a Difference
There are hundreds of South Africans serving Africa with the sweat of their brow, doing all they can to bring stability to the continent. They are keeping the flickering flame of hope in South Africa ablaze beyond our borders. These South Africans are not void of flaws and failures, but one cannot deny nor underestimate the materiality of their effort, along with scores of other South Africans who are out on the continent doing their bit in an effort to bring stability, hope and indeed prosperity to Africa.
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is at the helm of the African Union Commission, a difficult position where she has a title with little authority backing her position. As a woman she has the unenviable task of pulling together resources and support from what has been seen as a corrupt patriarchal organisation with no strong desire to further the causes of the continent. Despite her obvious challenges she began the year determined to stamp out conflict in Mali, lest it be said that the African Union (AU) failed to serve an African state in need as is being said of the Sudan. Her challenges are many but her determination is well known and respected. It will be a difficult road ahead for her but she is investing her sweat in the continent.
Former President Thabo Mbeki has been instrumental in his role as chief mediator in the arduous and lengthy negotiations for a peaceful transition period between Sudan and South Sudan. At the beginning of March, it was reported that troops from both sides would be withdrawn from the heated borders/ Furthermore, the former president led the mediation of the resumption of oil exports by the two nations. Last year he was nominated by the Daily Trust as African of the Year for “his outstanding leadership of the panel, for his persistent and consistent involvement in the peace process, and for the success of the panel in bringing Sudan and South Sudan back from the brink of war...” This was a commendable feat indeed.
Besides high-ranking officials as the abovementioned, since 2000 South Africa has been instrumental in deploying military troops to countries such as Burundi, The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Darfur and even Nepal. These soldiers have not only been ‘peacekeeping’ but also been hands on in training troops and in infrastructural reconstruction and development especially in the DRC.
All these efforts have made a difference, but are not nearly sufficient.
One cannot elaborate in such a short space but Africa is a field full of all kinds of ‘treasure’, which the whole world is after and as one of the leading economies, boasting almost 25% of Africa’s GDP, South Africa should be playing a strong role to ensure Africa prospers through the use of its natural wealth, as it should. Looking domestically and reflecting on the recent budget speech, financial clout will not do it but the sweat of the brow, rolled up sleeves and determined folk will contribute significantly. South Africa’s much needed contribution to the continent lies not in financial generosity but rather in its greatest asset, its people people who have a passion for the continent and are willing to invest time and effort into building it up. South Africa’s role in Africa is to lead, guide, bring hope and shine the light for a way forward even in the darkest of times before Africa and the world at large loses all confidence in South Africa.
Dambisa Moyo, Africa’s leading economist and thinker stated that Africa does not need “state aid which allows governments to abdicate their responsibilities…” For as long as history books tell the story, the continent has always been looking for hand-outs that have neither benefitted the masses or furthered the cause of the respective countries. Natural wealth, of which Africa has plenty, has been plundered till countries declared poverty at which point aid has been given keeping the country in debt, be it moral or financial. As the powerhouse South Africa should invest in ensuring a stable and confident Africa, which in the long run will attract foreign investment that benefits all involved. An Africa that is self-sufficient in no need of aid. This is the future of the continent.
President Jacob Zuma, spoke at the 10th anniversary of South African peace keeping in Africa and stated that, “…(South Africa) cannot survive in isolation, as its economic development and security is linked to the continent’s stability…”
It does the country no good to look at fellow Africans with disdain and pity. Our current leadership has to be focused on building and serving a groaning continent instead of building and serving personal empires. For it is this attitude that will not only promote growth but foster a sense of togetherness on this, our motherland.