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Faced with a shrinking income tax base, President Cyril Ramaphosa should encourage skilled, wealthy people not to leave the country.
Instead, he does the opposite. Speaking at a Robert Mugabe memorial service in Pietermaritzburg on Friday, Ramaphosa said the ANC would always be on Zanu-PF’s side, and South Africans must “derive great lessons” from Mugabe’s life.
Great lessons indeed. Mugabe showed how to bankrupt a mineral-rich country that was once a breadbasket of Africa. Mugabe turned it into a basket case. He conducted master classes in the enrichment of a brutal, kleptocratic elite at the expense the poor, including millions who fled oppression for greener pastures.
Ramaphosa said Mugabe “was a true Africanist who firmly believed in the ability of Africa and African leaders to find solutions for our own problems”. Mugabe’s policies led to Zimbabwe’s ruin. Any attempt to emulate Mugabe here will produce a similar result.
Ramaphosa apparently believes mythical African solidarity is more important than economic growth and stability.
Mythical is used here in the sense of idealised fantasy, make believe. What media call xenophobia is more accurately described as Afrophobia. African unity is a worthy ideal but it is not evident when African people attack each other because of perceived ethnic or national differences. Regrettably, African unity is a shibboleth, blowing in the wind.
African identity aside, statements such as those Ramaphosa made in his Mugabe eulogy have economic consequences. They are credit-negative. With government’s debt-to-GDP ratio rushing towards 60%, a negative outlook from Moody’s on November 1 could tip the country closer to more complete junk status.
More people will lose their jobs, homes, cars, etc. To celebrate ideological triumph in these conditions would be self-destructive, counter-evolutionary. Venezuelan.
In the face of such doom and gloom, the new Facebook group, #I’mStaying, is a welcome antidote. #I’mStaying group admin wouldn’t permit negative political commentary, such as I have written here.
Such censorship is problematic for advocates of free speech, but there’s clearly a market for a positive approach. The group has attracted more than 140,000 members in two weeks.
#I’mStaying would dilute its purpose if doors were open to negative trolls who stalk social media. People join #I’mStaying because they want to hope and to share constructive vision with like-minded people. Reasons to believe.
The group is “dedicated to the South African women and men of all races and all religions, who remain loyal to South Africa. This group is to honour all those who still believe that we as a nation can turn things around. To all those who choose to stay and work together to save this beautiful country we call home! This group belongs to all willing to make a positive difference!”
For those who don’t have an option to leave, the question is moot. For those who could leave if they wanted to, the group offers a chance to clarify reasons for staying.
Believing we can turn things around despite Ramaphosa, I aim to help. That’s why #I’mStaying. What’s your answer?
Martin Williams, DA councillor and former editor of The Citizen.
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