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In spite of Gbagbo we did well

by Lesotho Times
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2010 could still rate as the best year for Africa, in spite of such huge setbacks as the tragedy of the Ivory Coast.

Laurent Gbagbo was a big blot on the continent’s claim to what might have turned out to be Africa’s Nobel Peace Prize.

But not even he could persuade the rest of the world to ignore Africa’s success in staging the 2010 Fifa World Cup in South Africa.

2010 might be called South Africa’s year.

But without the unstinting moral support of the rest of the continent, South Africa might not have pulled it off as well as it did.

In fact, to some of us not enough chest-thumping was done by African leaders over the 2010 Fifa World Cup success.

You got the distinct impression that some thought there was a tendency to blow the success out of proportion: they preferred a low key approach — as if Africa ought to be apologetic for succeeding so emphatically in staging the soccer showpiece, with only the incidental snags. 

There were, at the beginning, ill-wishers who prayed the World Cup would not go ahead in South Africa: one country said publicly it was waiting to stage the tournament, in case South Africa — as it hoped — would not be up to doing the honours.

Some of the non-African countries were sick to their stomachs at the overall success of South Africa since 1994.

They had routed for apartheid, hoping against hope that the Afrikaners would maintain their stranglehold on an African country even after Ghana’s freedom decades earlier in 1957.

Among the ill-wishers were African countries as well: they never came out in the open.

But you guessed some of them felt they deserved to stage the tournament on the basis of their imagined seniority: they had been independent longer than South Africa and felt they deserved first preference.

Others chafed at the fact that South Africa, although a truly independent African country, was still “too white” to be considered a typical African country: it didn’t have a thoroughly corrupt and dictatorial regime run by pot-bellied, thoroughly immoral and selfish people who thought only of their self-interests, including their Swiss bank accounts.

South Africa was still a “rainbow nation”: each of the racial and ethnic groups played a pivotal role in its development.

There was no open discrimination against any one group on the basis of its role before independence was achieved in 1994.

You juxtapose this with a random number of African countries and what do you see?

In some of the African countries, you can count on the fingers of one hand the number of white people walking the main street of the capital city one day.

Even in countries where the policy of reconciliation was loudly pronounced, you will discover there is a marked hostility and discrimination towards all non-black citizens.

If there was a logical basis for such discrimination, it would be understandable: in most cases, it is the new black “elite”, determined to take over from the former white colonial masters the absolute  power and obscene wealth they once promised to the people in general after independence.

So, the successful staging of the tournament was a result of a truly national endeavour — black, white, coloured and Indian all pulling together.

This is not to say South Africa is free of the bunions or warts visible on many independent African states.

Its progress towards a truly free and independent country in which there is freedom of expression and assembly is almost as slow as the others’.

There is fear, among extremists in the ANC, particularly, that any true unshackling of the party’s “controls” on all freedoms, might return the country to a sort of apartheid era — where the might of the black people might be equivalent to that of the other races.

Julius Malema must throw up at that terrifying prospect.   

But it is about the Ivory Coast crisis that we must all truly worry.

Older people must long for the courage of leaders such as Julius Nyerere who gave it all up because he felt he had not kept his promises to the people.

Nyerere left office voluntarily — as conscience-stricken as a father who had failed to feed his family.

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