LUCKY DUBE'S DEATH AND THE 2010 WORLD CUP
By Chenjerai Chitsaru
LUCKY Dube’s murder last week could not have occurred at a worse time for President Thabo Mbeki’s political image and for South Africa, as we count the months to the 2010 World Cup in that country.
For Africa, the staging of the soccer festival on the continent for the first time is of such importance nothing on earth should be allowed to gratify the ill-wishes of our detractors.
None of us could help it if a natural catastrophe did occur, but we must guard against any man-made disaster intervening.
The detractors must include extremist Afrikaners, who would love nothing better than for the tournament to be switched to another country because of what they insist is SA’s appalling crime record as if, before 1994, the country was as crime-free as a nunnery.
In an act of insane frustration at the end of apartheid, they murdered one of its fiercest critics, Chris Hani in 1993. He was only 51, a man destined to play a pivotal role in rebuilding the country over the ashes of apartheid.Lucky Dube
All the evidence of history points to the propensity among all South Africans including the Afrikaners themselves, for violence, as having been nurtured by apartheid, a system which so alienated people against each other, to this day, death is not the “big deal” that it is in, for instance, Zimbabwe and many other African countries recently freed from the morally and psychologically debilitating trauma of racist colonialism.
For Mbeki, Dube’s assassination there was something carefully planned about the attack on his car
came at the most inauspicious moment: one of his critics had just described the country as having become “a political brothel”.
Mangosuthu Buthelezi of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) was referring to the suspension of the Natioal Director of Prosecutions and the cancellation of the warrant of arrest for the national police commissioner.
Buthelezi, speaking to a conference of his party in KwaZulu Natal, said the incidents highlighted “the mess in our criminal justice system”.
He wasn’t finished: the mess was created, he said, by a leadership marked by “ineptitude and pettiness”.
That description sounded more appropriate for the goings-on in Zimbabwe, than in South Africa , whose economy, in general, attracts far more foreign direct investment than its neighbour, whose leadership is most decidedly marked by ineptitude and pettiness witness the preoccupation with the liquidation of journalists and the hounding of creative entrepreneurs.
Mbeki, unfortunately, has been a little weak-kneed in his response to calls for positive and decisive action to halt the descent into more crime around the country.
He was right to ascribe the prevalence of crime to the legacy of apartheid, but this should not hinder radical plans to revamp the law enforcement agencies to a level bringing it to a par with or even higher, in terms of resources and sophistication, than that of the criminals.
Sadly, his response reminded many critics, even those who generally sympathized with his administration, of his tragic dithering over HIV and Aids.
One criticism was that he seemed to lump every criticism as a knee-jerk reaction, particularly among the whites, to the change of government.
There may be a grain of truth in this suspicion, but Mbeki ought to have been pragmatic enough to appreciate that not all the criticism was gratuitous or strictly motivated by racism.
What made his shortcomings worse was the tendency to entrench his position even while the evidence mounted that a logical reaction should have been a thorough re-assessment of his position.
On the HIV and Aids front, his change of tack, in the calculation of many of his critics, was very slow and costly.
The same consequences may result from his laid-back reaction to the rising crime-wave.
Part of the real tragedy in Africa is the almost routine tendency to treat all criticism of a government as if it was designed solely to destroy, and not to build.
Opposition parties are thus viewed as potential destroyers of what is seen as an excellent government system, anchored on the people’s wishes. There is much evidence of this in both South Africa and Zimbabwe.
In fact, South Africa ’s ruling coalition of the ANC and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) is increasingly seen to be campaigning for the creation of a one-party system.
For instance, in the local government politics of Cape Town , the governing coalition seems determined to cripple the opposition so that it had take over the administration lock, stock and barrel.
There is something vaguely sinister about this obsession with hegemony in every sphere of politics.
For many observers, what appears to be the re-emergence of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) as a political force must signal the resistance to the ANC’s push for a near-one-party dispensation.
Lucky Dube, whose appeal was worldwide, did a few songs which were critical of the new system, as critical as he was of the apartheid regime.
But he was essentially an artiste, not a political activist.
Yet it is common in Africa for even artistes who are not singing the praises of the regime to be treated as if they were “enemies of the state”.
Thomas Mapfumo may not have been the target of any assassination attempt so far, but the campaign to demonise his music has been recognized as signifying an official rejection of his message.
Only his earliest recordings, praising the struggle and those who waged it, are heared on the state electronic media.
Inevitably, what may be called his “rebel” music can be heard on the radio stations considered clandestine and anti-government.
This is one of the unhealthiest aspects of politics in Zimbabwe, the official banning of any music that even remotely criticizes the regime.
It results in the official media favouring “politically correct” music, some of it of such mediocre quality not many foreigners find it inspiring or even truly representative of Zimbabwean culture.
Lucky Dube’s death touched almost all Africans, the exception being those who may have plotted his assassination and their paymasters. How much damage they have done will depend on how the government and people of South Africa will react.
It will be particularly interesting to observe how Mbeki will respond. He publicly expressed his deep sorrow at Dube’s death, but many critics will expect more from him.
If the assassination was indeed intended primarily to tell the world soccer governing body, FIFA, that staging the 2010 tournament in South Africa would be a disaster, then we can expect more such spectacular acts by the authors of Dube’s demise.
The ceremony at which the teams for the African Nations Cup were slotted into their groups for the January 2008 tournament in Ghana was a glittering affair in Accra.
To accompany it was a film depicting the progress South Africa has made in building new stadia or expanding old ones for the 2010 World Cup festival.
Obviously, the successful staging of the tournament would be a victory for Africa as a whole, not only for its soccer, but for its image as a continent capable of successfully organizing such lavish tournaments – and not just coups and civil wars.
South Africa staged Afcon in 1996, which it won, only two years after democracy was established. No-one can be under any illusions that there are enemies of Africa who would love for the 2010 World Cup to be a catastrophe.
Mbeki must know this and must polish up his act, or end up encouraging Buthelezi to coin an even more scabrous epithet than a “political brothel”.