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Burutsa goes down memory lane – NewsDay

Denzel Burutsa

SOUTH AFRICA-BASED Zimbabwean actor Denzel Burutsa is reminiscing about the good old days as he celebrates what would have been the 20th anniversary of the popular Studio 263.

Studio 263, which premiered on the national broadcaster ZBC TV in 2002, was written by veteran novelist Aaron Chiundura Moyo.

It was centred on life in the capital, Harare with the purpose of creating awareness about HIV/Aids.

Apart from the HIV/Aids awareness, the soap’s storyline also tackled such real life struggles of ordinary Zimbabweans as poverty and teenage pregnancies.

At the height of its popularity, Studio 263 was broadcast in Zambia and Tanzania as well as on MNet’s Africa Magic, making it one of the first local productions to showcase across the borders.

Since September 2002, the soapie was screened five times a week for about four years before it was pulled off air in 2007 amid contractual disputes.

The hilarious Burutsa shot to fame as Jabulani Jari, a troublesome character who won the hearts of many viewers across the country.

He was also famous for his cornrows hairstyle and playboy character.

Speaking to NewsDay Life & Style, Jabu shared many fond memories of his time on the set of the iconic television soap.

“I joined Studio 263 in August 2002 after an extensive audition took a couple of weeks since there were just too many talented people wanting to be part of the cast,” he recalled.

“The show had originally been named MuHarare Hamurarwe, (People Work all Night in Harare), but changed its title to Studio 263 which had a national identity as+263 is the country code rather than a provincial one.”

The actor remembers his journey in Studio 263 as a very enlightening experience, resulting in the cast becoming very close and growing into one family.

Jabu paid tribute to his former co-stars who he said he missed dearly.

“I miss the cast and crew because we all gelled together and I believe I was equally connected to everyone as we respected our differences and unique relationships.

“I particularly miss the characters that made up the Jari family as we spent more time together on set. Who could forget Vimbai Jari? (played by the late Annie Nhira) we gelled and bonded so well,” he fondly

Denzel appreciated the beauty in creativity and storytelling, citing the soapie’s as a communication and information dissemination tool.

Responding to whether he had quit acting, Jabu said: “I have never left acting, it is just that I am never really tied down to a particular place or project. I am a rolling stone of some sort.”

Studio 263 boasted a stellar cast which included ZiFM presenter Tinopona “Joyce Huni” Katsande, the late Pretty Xaba, Kizito Dread Welly” Mawoko, Ben “Tom Mbambo” Mhaka, Joe “Jacob Huni” Pike, Stephen “John Huni” Chigorimbo, the late Nevernay “Muwenga” Chinyanga, Tatenda “Tendai Jari” Mavetera (who is now into politics and is currently a Member of Parliament for Seke-Chikomba constituency) and Tongayi “Trevor Davis” Chirisa, now plying his trade in Hollywood.

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Factions may not always be a bad thing: A contemporary history of internal party disagreement in Zimbabwe – The Zimbabwe Mail

In April 2015, when Robert Mugabe expelled his former deputy Joice Mujuru, her alleged crimes, among others, were sowing division in the party, challenging his leadership, and orchestrating factionalism.

Simon Khaya Moyo, ZANU PF spokesman at the time, proceeded to highlight that all her actions were against the party’s interests. It was reported that Mujuru lacked “the quality of strong moral principles, honesty, and decency”. Mujuru was accused of leading a loose faction, Gamatox (a pesticide used to exterminate weevils).

The Gamatox rhetoric was prominently used by Didymus Mutasa in what Oliver Nyambi calls Mutasa’s self-claim to patriotic duty for the interests of the party and shielding it against infiltrators. Gamatox was a solution to the weevils, a tag reserved for a rival faction.

Two years later, another vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, would be expelled from ZANU PF for disloyalty, disrespect, deceitfulness and unreliability, and a “lack of probity in the execution of his duties”. Again, Khaya Moyo announced the charges, including the claim that the VP led a political faction, Lacoste, in reference to his nickname, “Ngwena (the Crocodile)”. It was deemed that the faction violated party rules and procedures.

When Mujuru was expelled, the National Disciplinary Committee was chaired by yet another vice president, Phelekezela Mphoko. In a hilarious, yet fitting, twist of events, he too would also later be let go from the governing party together with high-profile members of the G40 faction.

Since its formation as the opposition in 1999, the Movement for Democratic Change has had its fair share of factions, if not more than the governing party. Some of these factions have gone on to establish themselves as independent political outfits.

In 2005, two factions, one led by the late Morgan Tsvangirai and the other led by Welshman Ncube, could not agree on the participation of the MDC in the senatorial elections. Tsvangirai did not want to participate while Ncube thought it was in the best interests of the party to do so. They could not find common ground, and eventually split.

Along the way, the opposition would experience more fracturing because personalities could not coexist after disagreements over ideas, strategy, and policy. There have been numerous manifestations of the MDC, namely the MDC-T, MDC Green, MDC 99, MDC Renewal Alliance, and the MDC Alliance, among others. For those observing the chaos from the outside, it might be appropriate to conclude that only the COVID-19 virus has succeeded in producing more variants than the MDC.

However, these political realities are indicative of the fate of factions. Despite the general political commentary in Zimbabwe depicting a one-dimensional picture of factions and factionalism in politics as toxic, the general discourse on their role and nature remains largely incomplete if not underdeveloped.

What are factions anyway and why should ‘we’ care?

Factions have been defined as a clique of voters and politicians who come together to support particular ideas and are represented by a single candidate. Factions can be organised around policy ideas, friendships, or hatred. As members of the factions’ interests change, the boundaries and membership do not remain unaffected.

Factions have different purposes which range from patronage (of all kinds) to policy commitments. Discussion of factions in Zimbabwe presents some unique complexities because of the personalist political approach. Driven by the fear of victimisation, some people are members of multiple factions at once, depending on their interests.

The overemphasis on the degenerative nature of factions blinds us from realising the benefits of other forms of factions such as the probable productivity of factions, or at least the ability to be open about their existence.

Due to the history of chaotic politics, party fracture, violence, and backhandedness, it is easy to dismiss the important role of factions. It almost seems as if some of the pitfalls of factionalism, real or imagined, have limited our ability to accommodate other perspectives on factions. It has led to the bashing of the idea of factions from across the political divide.

The anti-faction rhetoric often comes from personal disagreements, political immaturity, and general ignorance about the role of factions. There is no denying that some of the criticisms in the past have been on policy disagreements. Unfortunately, even when this happened in the supposed spirit of productivity, the result has often been destructive.

Against Constitutional Compromise

It is the history of productive factions in the early 1960s that shaped what would be the direction of nationalist struggle and strategies. One has to go beyond the embellished sellout narratives to appreciate how factions productively shaped history.

In 1961, the leader of the National Democratic Party, Joshua Nkomo, was engaged in talks with Edgar Whitehead and the British for a constitutional compromise. The negotiations would provide some voting rights for blacks and not challenge white control of electoral politics. NDP was represented by Nkomo and Rev Ndabaningi Sithole, with Hebert Chitepo and George Silundika as part of the advisors.


Nkomo was elated by the prospect of 15 seats being reserved for Africans in the parliament. A vibrant trade unionist, Reuben Jamela, vehemently opposed the talks and campaigned against the approval of the proposal, resultantly putting him on a collision path with NDP leadership.

Leopold Takawira, Edson Sithole, and Paul Mushonga also argued against the plans. The NDP vice president Michael Mawema was fired for gross insubordination and publicly disagreeing with Nkomo. This faction generated popular support that forced the NDP leadership to abandon the plans and demand universal suffrage.

A policy change was birthed from a productive faction that was organised and disagreed on ideas and direction of the struggle. The factional pressure ensured a sacred commitment to universal suffrage throughout the history of struggle. Factions can guard against dangerous groupthink and improve the quality of policymaking through robust deliberations.

Absence of strong intra-party democratic openness

Owing to the relationship between the government and the governing political party, it is not foolhardy to argue that factionalism has a bearing on policy decisions and the direction of the country. Intra-party disputes can easily spiral into national chaos. Factions can manipulate state machinery to navigate a political quagmire.

There have been different takes on why the military coup in Zimbabwe happened. Without taking sides, it is almost impossible to ignore the fact that the disagreements (be it over ideas or personal animosity) between the Lacoste and G40-aligned individuals plunged the country into uncharted waters.

Earlier in ZANU history, Robert Mugabe had pushed for a one-party state with some minimal, albeit weak and uncoordinated opposition. There was a faction opposed to a one-party state. There was no openness within the party and room for accommodating different ideas without being excommunicated.

As a result, Edgar Tekere left and formed his Zimbabwe Unity Movement. At a press conference, he argued: “The ruling party is vigorously advocating the conversion of Zimbabwe into a one-party state and thereby seeking to entrench its internally undemocratic self as a state dictatorship.”

Predictably, Tekere was accused of sowing seeds of division in the party and across the country. There are some important lessons from the Tekere affair.

Tekere’s important contribution was to prove that Mugabe could be challenged. Secondly, Tekere would soon repeat the very same things he disagreed with when he was within ZANU PF. When he left, some people thought he was a genuine reformer with a deep respect for institutionalism and democracy.

ZUM was established as an alternative to the undemocratic nature of ZANU PF. However, like Nkomo in the early 1960s suspending his VP Michael Mawema for disagreeing with him, Tekere would subject those who criticised him to the same fate.

A faction, including Emmanuel Magoche, Alois Masepe, and Wurayayi Zembe, would eventually break away and form the Democratic Party.

Anyone critical of Tekere’s undemocratic leadership was either suspended or expelled from the party, a plague that has remained a common occurrence across the political divide.

Edgar Tekere left ZANU PF to form ZUM

After the party

This second lesson is important and prompts ‘us’ to critically think about the democratic and undemocratic nature of the opposition parties. There were no particularly big names or a group that left ZANU PF with Tekere into ZUM. He did not depart ZANU PF with a contingent coalescing around an idea or policy.

Some possible explanations could be that the so-called reformers within ZANU PF did not think Tekere was any different from the leader he was fighting and the party he was criticising, or it could have been down to groupthink nearing hysteria. The events that followed underlined the intolerance and violence that befalls divergent views.

It was not uncharacteristic for a liberation party in Zimbabwe not to tolerate a political faction. In the formative days of the struggle, ZAPU split into two because different factions disagreed on the direction the party was to take for liberating the people of Zimbabwe.

The faction – including Robert Mugabe, Leopold Takawira, Morton Malianga, Herbert Chitepo, Nathan Shamuyarira, Ndabaningi Sithole, and others – argued that Nkomo was indecisive.

Political mudslinging and violence followed the split. The Nkomo and Sithole factions traded toxic rhetoric. ZANU comrades were labeled as sellouts and imperialist stooges. YES!, ZANU was accused of being a front for American interests and dividing the struggle. Chikerema led the “Tshombe” (sellout) charges. The rhetorical back and forth reflected a continuation of the disagreement between the former two factions. In the 1980 elections because of unresolved factional problems, there were two ZANU formations. Even the deep distrust between ZAPU and the two ZANU formations outlasted the liberation struggle.

In need of metamorphosis?

Our collective aversion to factions symbolises a deep intolerance of political pluralism expressed in the form of ideas, yet factions in and of themselves may carry productive and insightful value for the body politic.

For ‘us’, political intolerance shares the same birth kernel as our nationalist struggle: they are born of the same peanut pod – with political intolerance issued concreteness by violence. As such, for us, our national struggle – and narrative – are imbued with passionate violence against any idea outside that which is generated by the status quo.

Perhaps, it is not only our factional politics that need a metamorphosis, but it is rather the entirety of our national political culture. Our national politics today are firmly wedded in their roots of aversion to political pluralism and resolutions homed in violence.
There is a productive role that factions can still play in our politics. With cooperative and competitive factions, it means a political party constantly goes through metamorphosis, transforming policy and adjusting to respond to the needs of the people.

Factions should not be confused with party departments. Factions are about ideas and policy formulations, and departments are about the implementation and execution of aggregated ideas. Arguing for factions is not some naïve or idealistic enterprise, but a productive political strategy. The benefits derived from factions and having an environment in which divergent ideas and interests thrive in a political party outweigh the short-term centralised power in one individual.

Of ‘sellouts’ and other labels

‘We’ need to see political factions as they are: signposts for difference, conflict, competition, and divergent thinking within political parties. They are reminders that people organise and congregate around interests that best serve them, and that those interests are not static. It serves no purpose to remain a member of an intra-party faction when it no longer aligns with your ideas and material interests.

The same applies to political parties. People are free to move back and forth depending on policy direction, ideology, and personnel changes. These are things we need to normalise in Zimbabwe politics. In the process, we need to shed off limiting terms like “counter-revolutionary” and “sellout”.

Factionalism has been blamed for causing disunity and party fracture. Inversely, politicians always push for a united voice without regard to how one gets to a united voice. It almost suggests that party stability is predicated on the absence of factions. A united party voice can be a product of policy compromise. How many times have opposition supporters and sympathisers wondered what would have happened if the MDC split in 2005, and every other mutation that followed, had not happened? Where would the opposition be?

It is much easier to focus on the effects of fracture and completely ignore the reasons why the compromise was not found in the first place. Beaming the searchlight on why political organisations are sensitive to factions, and why those factions don’t thrive, might be a useful starting point for democratic deepening conversations.

In a glib announcement of the expulsion of Tendai Biti, the late Morgan Tsvangirai accused Biti of being used by the regime and called him a power-hungry opportunist. In response to the allegations, Biti charged that Tsvangirai had turned the party into some personal fiefdom and challenged the continuation of his undisputed mandate. Tsvangirai, said Biti, was an “illiterate dictator”.

Tendai Biti as leader of breakaway party, PDP


The sellout, counterrevolutionary, or “being used by the state” allegations go back to Charles Mzingeli ’s days.

The theatrics muddies important issues, such as why divergent ideas cannot thrive in a political organisation. When a party lacks a mechanism for handling divergent thinking, often the party risks degeneration, poor policymaking, splinter groups, and a lack of cohesion and organisation of party position. The absence of a robust belief in institutionalism is good fodder for a toxic environment that does not accommodate differences from positions espoused by the one center of power.

Normalising political growth

Zimbabwe has never had a shortage of intra-party-political factions. Ethnicity, class divide, personality, elitism, and ideological bankruptcy have been some of the reasons thrown into the mix to explain factionalism.

The current political rivalries and splits are not an anomaly to the Zimbabwe political scene. An ahistorical (mis)reading of Zimbabwe politics might land one on a belief that factions and factionalism are a new phenomenon. There is value in what historical context brings into the discourse, placing the conversation along a historical timeline of national narratives.

There is a tendency in Zimbabwe politics to consider those who differ from the mainline party position as disloyal and unprincipled, a discourse aided by the public media.

It should be normal within a political party for leaders to lobby members and different groups to leave a faction in favor of another one. The reasons why people congregate or choose to leave a faction are vast. These actions do not necessarily mean one is a sellout, it simply means their interests have changed and found a new home.

The governing party has a blueprint and a direction for Zimbabwe the members envision. The opposition disagrees with the blueprint and vision, and consequently, it has a different one to what the governing party envisions. This disagreement on vision and interest does not cease at the inter-party level, it gains more life and nuance at the intra-party level.

We need to normalise even individuals crossing the lines across a political party. This should not be seen as an indication of ideological bankruptcy; it is a statement of authority that reflects a change in interests. The overbearing and one-sided negative narratives on political factions render moot the exercise of trying to untangle whether an individual’s actions within a political party are opportunistic or genuine changes in policy positions.

The lack of an intra-party democratic environment usually makes leaders and supporters alike conclude that someone is anti-revolutionary, sellout, or is being used by some third force to compromise the struggle. There has been a lot of discourse that paints factions as political cancers and bad for democracy and national politics.

‘We’ have almost treated intra-political party factions as treasonous. Indeed, some calls against personalist factions not organised ideas are noble. However, some of that criticism must be seen as factions trying to outdo each other.

Factions are inevitable. They reflect differences in opinions and interests. They are at the core of our politics. Political factions are group instruments for those without and with. They will not go away, and we must get used to it!

Source: NewZwire

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Zim Minister says Harare ready to welcome its citizens as permits expire in SA; nearly 200,000 affected – New

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PRETORIA: Zimbabwe’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Frederick Shava, said the government led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa is ready to welcome back its citizens who have lived in South Africa under the Zimbabwe Exemption Permits (ZEP).

“The Zimbabwe Exemption Permit will expire at the end of this year. Its expiry is naturally causing much anxiety to the holders of this permit,” Shava said in his opening remarks while co-chairing the mid-term review of the Bi-National Commission (BNC) with International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor.

“Our two governments must work closely in the implementation of this decision. We are ready to receive our nationals back home,” he said.

Among several senior officials from the two nations, the high-level meeting was also attended by Ambassador of South Africa to Zimbabwe, Thizwilondi Rejoice Mabudafhasi, and Ambassador of Zimbabwe to South Africa, David Hamadziripi.

Numerous Zimbabweans living in South Africa are in limbo, after the South African government announced that it would not be extending the Zimbabwe Exemption Permits (ZEP), which ended on December 31, 2021.

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The almost 200 000 permit-holders were given a 12-months grace period to regularise their stay with another category of permit.

Pandor told Shava that Pretoria is grateful for the supportive role played by Zimbabwe in arresting the scourge of illegal migration.

“Dear Minister (Shava), I’m sure you are aware that effective management of immigration has been an ongoing challenge for our government.

“We’ve recently established a border management agency and we hope it will vastly reduce illegal migration and improve efficiency. I must thank you and your government for the support you have given us in this endeavour,” she said.

Pandor said the review meeting gives the two neighbouring countries an opportunity to “reboot and reset our programmes, to better respond to the challenges that have emanated” from the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I am pleased to recall that despite the constraints of the pandemic, total trade between South Africa increased from a quantum of R38billion in 2020 to R47.5bn in 2021. I trust that our delegations will align our planning to enhance this positive development and I note in the figures that the surplus lies with South Africa, and we would like to see greater benefit to Zimbabwe’s economic sectors as well.

“Of course, our cooperation and partnership is not only limited to bilateral relations. We also share common values on regional, continental and global governance issues of mutual interest,” she said.

Pandor also expressed gratitude to Zimbabwe for the support given to South Africa when it served on the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation.

Shava, a seasoned diplomat, was appointed by Mnangagwa to head the Ministry of Foreign Affairs last year, following the death of the country’s Foreign Affairs Minister Sibusiso Moyo.

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Whatever happened to Mandela’s dream for South Africa? – Financial Times

This is an audio transcript of the Rachman Review podcast episode: Whatever happened to Mandela’s dream for South Africa?


Gideon Rachman
Hello and welcome to the Rachman Review. I’m Gideon Rachman, chief foreign affairs commentator of the Financial Times. This week’s edition comes from South Africa. When Cyril Ramaphosa took over as president of the country in 2018, there were high hopes that he could reverse a decade of social and economic decline. But four years into his presidency, many South Africans are disappointed. The country is still struggling with massive unemployment, crime, corruption and power cuts. My guest this week is the South African writer and political activist Songezo Zibi. So what would it take to turn South Africa around? In 1994, a historic moment in South Africa was watched all over the world. The swearing-in of Nelson Mandela as president of South Africa finally brought to a close the horror of the apartheid era.

Nelson Mandela
Out of the experience of an extraordinary human disaster that lasted too long, must be born a society of which all humanity will be proud.

Gideon Rachman
Mandela was the leader of the African National Congress. Almost 30 years later, the ANC is still in power. But these days it’s a much diminished organisation. Jacob Zuma, Mandela’s former ANC colleague, served as president of South Africa from 2009 until 2018, but he left office in disgrace and was arrested for corruption last year, an event that sparked riots across the country.

News clip
Looters continued to ransack shopping malls and protesters clashed with police in several areas of South Africa on Tuesday. Violence triggered by the jailing of former President Jacob Zuma has evolved into an outpouring of anger over persistent poverty and inequality 27 years after the end of apartheid.

Gideon Rachman
President Ramaphosa pledged to clean up the corruption of the Zuma years. But earlier this year he too was accused of corruption after the mysterious discovery of, its alleged, millions of dollars in cash stuffed into sofa cushions on his private game farm.

News clip
President Ramaphosa has questions to answer on several fronts after he confirmed that a robbery did take place at his farm in Limpopo in 2020. Former spy boss Arthur Fraser saying $4mn was stolen. That’s around R61mn.

Gideon Rachman
Disillusionment with Ramaphosa has led to a pretty downbeat atmosphere in South Africa, as I discovered last week when I visited Johannesburg and Cape Town. But at the same time, there’s a surge of new opposition parties and politicians determined to give the country a fresh start. One of the most interesting figures is Songezo Zibi. He’s just published a book called Manifesto: A New Vision for South Africa, in which he calls on the country’s professionals to re-engage with politics. Zibi even boldly states that he might one day run for president himself. So when I met some Songezo Zibi in Johannesburg last week, I started by asking him what he thought is the biggest problem facing South Africa.

Songezo Zibi
The biggest issue is the economy specifically as it relates to jobs, because we have 36 per cent unemployment, but youth unemployment is north of 60 per cent in South Africa. So that’s the first thing. I think the second issue is directly related in many ways, which is crime. People are feeling unsafe and in the focus groups we do, they referred to the criminals as kids, which means that people who perpetrate the crime are from within the same community. And the third is corruption. People complain about corruption a lot, and specifically that the president hasn’t dealt with it in the way that he said he would.

Gideon Rachman
And those things, as you said, there’s a connection between crime and unemployment and presumably between unemployment and corruption. I mean, the levels of unemployment you mentioned are absolutely staggering. How did South Africa get to this state that there’s just no jobs?

Songezo Zibi
The ANC in the Jacob Zuma era destroyed institutions, and institutions are nothing more than the corporate capability to get things done. So we are unable to get things done within the public sector. So you’ve got a private sector investment which can be unlocked, but you don’t have the enabling mechanisms in the state to make it work. So that’s the first thing. The second thing, in my view, is that the orientation of the ANC is incongruent with how a modern economy works or should work and also just the economy that we have. The interventions are for an economy that they wish we had but we don’t actually have.

Gideon Rachman
So what are they getting wrong? What are they trying to do that’s not working?

Songezo Zibi
To give you some specific figures from the most recent quarterly labour force survey, if you don’t have a post-school qualification, the unemployment rate is north of 90 per cent. If you have a post-school qualification, that drops to 50 per cent. So already you can see the training that gets offered is for people with post-school qualifications. There are people who really fall between the cracks. So that’s the first. The second, I think, is that we just need to work with the economy that we have in the sense that the ANC has got a big industrial society conception of the economy where people go in to work at 8:00 and they come out at 5:00 and they work in big factories and that sort of thing. The sectors that we really need to focus on, given the skills deficit we have are the agri sector, it’s tourism and so on, which would give us better labour absorption, but they don’t seem to get those kind of equations.

Gideon Rachman
Why not? I mean, they’re not that complicated.

Songezo Zibi
They’re not, Gideon. But you’ve got to remember that in South Africa we don’t have the revolving door that developed democracies and economies have between the public and private sectors where people work in both. So ANC politicians have never worked in the real economy so they genuinely don’t understand. Even when they’re trying to do it well, they conceive it in a bad way. The second thing is that they very suspicious of the idea of unlocking private capital because in the old pre-1990s cold war era, private capital was an enemy (chuckles). And so you’ve got to be suspicious of these guys and kind of keep them in check and make sure that if there’s to be any investment at all, it’s got to come from the state. But the state can’t be everywhere all the time, and it can’t invest everywhere either. You need to unlock private capital, and we’ve got lots of it in South Africa, not just the possibility of foreign direct investment.

Gideon Rachman
And meanwhile, the infrastructure obviously is crumbling most strikingly with these big power cuts that you have really in the last month, I gather. The lights on as we speak in Johannesburg, but that you were having power cuts of up to nine hours a day.

Songezo Zibi
Yes. Yeah, we get up to nine hours in a 24-hour cycle, power cuts. And that’s just indicative of this problem I just explained, because the idea of unlocking private capital to bring renewable generation on stream is being opposed within the ANC by people who’ve made investments in the coal sector. And those people have a fear that if the country transitions too fast into a renewable energy scenario, then they’ll be out of pocket. So you’ve got these vested interests which are militating against a faster transition. You also have an ANC that does not know how to articulate the length of the transition the country’s energy to make sense on. Our integrated resource plan for energy provision, which is a 50-year plan, is supposed to be updated every two years. We get it right about every six or seven years. So by the time another one comes it’s out of date already.

Gideon Rachman
And presumably, though, to get to a stage where you’re having power cuts of that length, it must have been a massive failure of maintenance over a very long period and also a failure to invest in new power facilities.

Songezo Zibi
It’s mostly the second problem. I know that for the longest time the ANC, for fear of losing one or other election, emphasised the need to keep the lights on, which means you skimp on your major maintenance so that you don’t have too many power plants out of commission. That cost the country a lot. So there is a backlog of maintenance that basically needs to be untangled. The second is the building of new generation capacity. It doesn’t have to be coal, but we’ve just fallen behind because just on approving the renewable emission licences alone, we take an inordinately long amount of time, as if we’re not in a crisis. So there seems to be a lack of appreciation of how fast you need to move.

Gideon Rachman
And so how do the different sectors of society exist in this kind of situation? I mean, people say, I don’t know whether it’s a fact or a factoid that South Africa is the most unequal country in the world.

Songezo Zibi
It is a fact. Gini coefficient is recognised by the World Bank, IMF and others as being the worst in the world. And that’s because you really have some fabulously wealthy people here. Not out of listed assets like serious dollar billionaires and so on, who can compete in other parts of the globe. But you also have a concentration of high-income earners who are around Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town. But those people, there’s a congruence between that and their influence over the economy through investments, through professional qualification, good managers and so on. And then remember that statistic I gave you around who the unemployed are and what the education deficit is. So unless you solve that problem at the bottom, you’re always going to have this inequality.

Gideon Rachman
And so the top level of people, presumably they have their own private generators, their own private security, healthcare, so they can sort of exist in a failing state.

Songezo Zibi
Yeah, let me tell you something else. They are also now offerings for private fire engines. So that’s how much the state is being substituted in South Africa because it is failing.

Gideon Rachman
And for the people who don’t have the ability to buy their way out, I mean, if you’re part of these 50 per cent unemployed, how do people survive?

Songezo Zibi
It’s really difficult. And in my family, I support at least two people at one other point during the month because they rely on part-time work, which you could get or not. And so they can’t build themselves a home. It’s really difficult to look for a job because they need to pay for taxes. And so people are battling to survive. They’ve just got enough money for food and maybe one meal a day. And that situation is untenable.

Gideon Rachman
So what’s gonna happen?

Songezo Zibi
I hope that a combination of things will line up. That is that the ANC goes below 50 per cent in 2024.

Gideon Rachman
That’s the next election.

Songezo Zibi
That’s the next election. And secondly, that the coalition that takes over from the ANC isn’t as chaotic as what we’ve seen in the big cities like Durban and Pretoria, and that will have the effect of removing the really destructive forces in the ANC out of the equation.

Gideon Rachman
So the ANC you’ve given up on, because I think outside South Africa people are tempted to see Zuma as an aberration. But the ANC is still basically a kind of noble organisation that led the liberation struggle that can be rescued. But that’s kind of not your view.

Songezo Zibi
No, it’s not. I mean, the heritage is historical fact, and we can’t do away with it and we shouldn’t. What we must not kid ourselves on is the ANC being the future. It’s not. It’s incapable. It lacks the societal credibility to build a coalition that can have a consensus on what we should do next. And most importantly, it genuinely doesn’t have the intellectual capacity to do what needs to be done. It just doesn’t, even when it tries.

Gideon Rachman
Because, as you say, these people are professional politicians. They’ve never done anything else.

Songezo Zibi
Many of them would blend in with the unemployed if they were not full-time politicians.

Gideon Rachman
And so how did people like that get selected if they don’t have any abilities? Is it a kind of tribal thing or . . . 

Songezo Zibi
Not at all. It’s because the people that have the capability have gradually withdrawn from politics over the years. I mean, there still are some, but they’re seen as people who are fighting a losing battle. So the really capable have checked out of politics, but you also got to see that in the context of what happened when Jacob Zuma came in. There was a very strong, anti-intellectual and anti-capability sentiment in the African National Congress, which was equated to elitism, snobbishness, which it wasn’t. There was a term — “clever blacks” — who were people basically were asking all the tough questions and insisting on a bit of rigour, those people were left out. And so with that, you had a loss of capability from the ANC, which actually used to have serious intellectual capital before.

Gideon Rachman
Can that be turned around, though? I mean, I suppose you don’t see much (unintelligible) of it being turned around.

Songezo Zibi
No, it can’t, because the people that replaced that capability are now entrenched (Chuckles). They’re standing at the door.

Gideon Rachman
Right. And Ramaphosa didn’t come in and say, “OK, get away from the door. I want to bring the good people back.”

Songezo Zibi
No, he can’t. Because, remember, he relies on those guys manning the door for his own election, right? So you see the vicious cycle. I know people blame him for not doing that, but I know that it’s also extremely difficult, because these are people who insist on being part of the decision-making, and I guess they should because they are in the leadership of the organisation at different levels.

Gideon Rachman
And has there been any accountability for the Zuma years? I mean, he’s kind of meant to be on trial, isn’t he? But it keeps being deferred and so on.

Songezo Zibi
Yeah, no, there’s been very little accountability. I mean, our criminal justice system is slow, but when it comes to prosecuting people who are involved with corruption, it’s exceptionally slow.

Gideon Rachman
Has Ramaphosa put a stop at least to the old looting of the state because now, of course, he’s facing accusations of corruption after they found cash literally stuffed on the back of a sofa.

Songezo Zibi
Look, the looting on an industrial scale has seriously tapered off. That partly informs the problems he’s experiencing within his own party because the taps have been closed. What happens to more junior politicians who do the same within the party, they get shot.

Gideon Rachman
Actually, literally shot.

Songezo Zibi
Literally they get shot, yeah. They get killed.

Gideon Rachman
You mean, so, at the local level, the corruption is so entrenched that if you try and stop it, they’ll kill you.

Songezo Zibi
Yeah, they kill you. Yeah, yeah, yeah. In fact, the office of the auditor-general sometimes loses people to killing because someone doesn’t want them to uncover wrongdoing at the municipal level or at the provincial level. So it really is deeply entrenched. What you’ve got to understand is that the ANC has morphed into a criminal organisation. The ANC practises that kind of corruption and so you can’t clean up the criminal organisation, and it remains standing. Any attempt to deal with the corruption would collapse it as a natural organic consequence of cleaning it up.

Gideon Rachman
So no hope there. So what hope do you see in the opposition parties? You said earlier that you think the one prerequisite for change is that the ANC falls below 50 per cent in the 2024 election. Who do you see coming up? Because the Economic Freedom Fighters, the Malema party, are very statist, very leftist. I would imagine they would make some of those problems worse. The Democratic Alliance, the DA, or the new party led by Herman Mashaba . . . What do you think?

Songezo Zibi
So it’s much less the who and more the what. I believe that what we need — and there’s huge appetite for it at the moment — is a broad coalition brought together by common values and principles, common priorities and consensus on how those priorities are going to be tackled. That would take the shape of a combination of some political actors, civil society organisations, but also community and other groups. It’s a difficult proposition to put together, but I think South Africa now, since the early 1990s, does have a history of coalitions moving together for change. Let’s now get to the who. The who obviously doesn’t come from the African National Congress. I also don’t think that person or that group of people can come from the opposition parties because they are not trying to build a coalition either. But I think building that coalition, that broad coalition, not necessarily to contest an election but behind an idea, is a necessary first step.

Gideon Rachman
You mentioned the things that are concerning people. What’s very striking to me, the extent of concern about illegal immigration, that people seem to be putting a lot of their frustration and anger on the idea that all these foreigners have come into the country, have taken the jobs, are behind the crime and so on. How much of a real problem is illegal immigration and where could this debate go?

Songezo Zibi
So in South Africa, in some townships, in a lot of townships, we have a lot of vigilante killings, really gruesome killings done by community members. The reason that happens is because people have lost faith in the police. The same thing is true of the immigration system. So what you’re having is absent of private service providers that the elites have got access to. The poor just do it for themselves. But when you think about it, land invasions where there’s no demarcation of land for residential because the state is weak. Vigilante killings in the case of localised crime and xenophobic sentiment. There are two reasons for the xenophobic sentiment. It’s the unemployment and the crime.

Gideon Rachman
And nobody really seems to have any firm idea on how many illegal immigrants there are because the system’s so broken.

Songezo Zibi
Yeah, it’s not just the system, it’s the borders that are porous. So we genuinely don’t know. You know, the running joke is on each of our border entries, there is a gate, but there’s no fence (laughter). Which is, which, I mean, it’s an exaggeration but true in many ways, right? So if you can’t document who comes in and out, you’ve got a problem.

Gideon Rachman
I guess. I mean, it’s a very bleak source of comfort, but it is a reminder that for all these terrible problems we’re discussing, for a lot of people in southern Africa, South Africa remains the magnet, the place that is more functioning. Presumably, despite the high rate of unemployment, these people can find jobs.

Songezo Zibi
Yeah. Look, Gideon, there are three reasons why I left my corporate job to do the work that I do, which is to work with civil society, to try and build a coalition, basically, to see if we can have a better and better-informed conversation about our future. The first is that I have children, three children. They’re young. I have a genuine fear that they might not have opportunities in the future. So that’s the first one. The second one is that I love my country, and I really wouldn’t like to see it fail. The third is that if South Africa fails, the rest of the region is in very serious trouble in terms of just the socio-economic metrics and just the survival of democracy in the region as a whole. We have to arrest that decline and I think we’re at the point where for various reasons there are multiple smart people now, who realise the situation is urgent and we must do something, than there were five years ago. And that’s a good thing because it means we can start doing something.

Gideon Rachman
But, you say, if South Africa fails, the whole region’s in trouble. But one of the sort of disappointing aspects, I guess, of post-apartheid South Africa is many people saw South Africa as the obvious regional leader, you know, this relatively dynamic, advanced economy. And South Africa doesn’t seem to have taken that road. In fact, in your book, you say South Africa has a morally bankrupt foreign policy. What did you mean by that?

Songezo Zibi
It’s morally bankrupt because it just recently — and by recently, I mean the last decade, decade and a half — been informed by sentiment. And basically narrow interest in terms of the ANC’s ideological and political interest, even just the personal interests of politicians. Give you a very specific example, some years ago, we lost a number of young men in the Central African Republic in a firefight with the Seleka rebels there. To this day, it’s still unclear what they were doing there without any kind of logistical support, without the requisite military intelligence support and so on. And they died. And it was just indicative of the amoral, transactional manner in which we’ve conducted foreign policy. Supporting Putin in effect in Ukraine while claiming to be neutral, but using Kremlin talking points for what you do, denying that there was a crisis in Zimbabwe all those years ago when there was, and that crisis is now here. And some South Africans are trying to kill those very Zimbabweans who come out of a crisis that supposedly didn’t exist. So we’ve kind of done this over the years, which I believe has cost us a lot of friends and has cost us credibility across the world. And I’m not sure how or when we are gonna get it back.

Gideon Rachman
And what drove that? I mean, you know, half my podcast in the last six months have been about Russia, Ukraine, et cetera, et cetera. And that’s reflecting a very European point of view. Why do you think the ANC leadership, to use your words, supported Putin?

Songezo Zibi
You would think that if we, as most of us South Africans, support the Palestinian struggle, which is about occupation and displacement and so on, they would naturally then have the same sentiments towards the Ukrainians because they are going through the same thing, right? But they don’t. So that’s the amoral bit. And then there is the bit which explains the rest of the reasoning, which is the ANC senior politicians genuinely live in 1987 when the cold war was still raging and the Soviet Union was still a thing — shaky, but still a thing. And the idea of countries that were previously in that geopolitical axis of the Soviet Union aligning with the big enemies in the west is seen as aggression, and therefore Putin is justified in feeling threatened by the west because the west is inherently bad. Now, of course, that makes no sense because our biggest trading partners are from the west, right, apart from China, the single biggest trading partner. Culturally, South Africans are more married to the west, they travel more to the west. We buy their goods, we sell our goods to them and that sort of thing. They completely forget all of that. So in a sense, it also, as a last point, betrays the ignorance of the world.

Gideon Rachman
So, so much to do. I mean, you’ve written a book called Manifesto. A lot of people say, well, you know, why don’t you go into politics? Have you thought about it?

Songezo Zibi
And also, the Rivonia Circle, which is the think-tank that we’ve started, is a political endeavour. I’ve made that very clear. One of its purposes is to explore political alternatives that South Africans should explore in the short to medium term. That is 2024, all the way to 2029. 2024 is national elections; 2026, local elections; 2029, national elections again. So it already is a political endeavour. My approach to this is that we need to use the Rivonia Circle to try and build that coalition. If that coalition looks possible and do-able, then there is no reason why I wouldn’t go into politics myself. I say so in the book, in chapter six.

Gideon Rachman
But for the moment, you need to do the preparatory work.

Songezo Zibi
We need to do the hard work. Because the problem with South Africa politically and why voters are so cynical is because a big man stands up on a podium and says, I’m going to consult South Africans about forming a new political party, and then they form it, but it’s about themselves. And voters are tired of that. And that’s why I talk coalition a lot, because actually I think we genuinely need it. You need business. You need the community and other civil interest groups to agree on a set of priorities and say, OK, if we solve these five or six things and we all make a genuine effort to solve them, we can start making an impact on the hundreds of other single issues that we have.

Gideon Rachman
OK, last question. Let me make you fantasy president for the day. Somehow, you end up leading this country . . . 

Songezo Zibi

Gideon Rachman
You know, people talk about the first 100 days. What would South Africa need to do in the first hundred days of a government that really wanted to turn this country around?

Songezo Zibi
Look, I think the first would be to appoint really capable people into key government positions. We’ve lost that over the years. I think we need to appoint modernisers. I think we need to appoint people who understand the soft underbelly of South Africa at the same time, who understand the world in which we operate so that we stay with the evolution of the world. So that is the first thing, and that that’s about people. The second is, we need to just change some institutions and begin the process of changing some institutions. I also make some propositions in the book about what ministries I would get rid of, were I to be president, such as the Department of Trade and Industry, which astonishingly has absolutely no relationship whatsoever with the Department of Foreign Affairs. They work hand-in-hand, in theory, but they’ve got two ministers who usually have nothing to do with one another. But the political reforms are important because if anything caused us these kind of problems we’ve had, it is the failure to democratise and to build a democratic culture. So that’s the second thing. The third one, on the economy. Any measure that releases private capital into the economy, of course, within the realm of the law. That is the first thing. And the second thing: a very serious intervention, that is investment in what I call a public employment scheme, which focuses on training and skilling people without a high school qualification because that’s 90 per cent of the unemployed. We get some of those things right, I think within a year or two you might start seeing a visible difference.


Gideon Rachman
That was Songezo Zibi, the South African author and activist, ending this edition of the Rachman Review. Thanks for listening, and that’s it for this week. So please join me again next week.

This transcript has been automatically generated. If by any chance there is an error please send the details for a correction to: We will do our best to make the amendment as soon as possible.

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