Home » Governance » Some Pointers for SA Envoy

THERE is some story that appeared on a website this week that could hardly escape attention. The story concerned South African Ambassador to Zimbabwe Vusi Mavimbela and it was titled “SA envoy takes potshot at Harare”.

Let’s be honest about it: the relationship between Zimbabwe and South Africa is a bit uneasy.

It is an open secret.

As such, we always look at the signs, subtle or overt, to signal the breaking point.

We in the media search for the signs and nuances.

Predictably, the story in question was bound to be catchy.

And when Cde Mavimbela was reported to have said the things he said at a function to mark his country’s Freedom Day, we were not surprised.

Only disappointed.

He told us about a heaven called South Africa and how it was the continental paradise.

He almost drew parallels between South Africa and mighty America.

This is what he was quoted as saying: “The South African economy remains the most developed and the most diversified in the African continent.

“For example, there are some other African countries that have laws that prevent foreign nationals from entering small business industries like barber shops, hair salons, small retail, taxi industry, etc.

“No such restrictions exist in SA. Incidentally, it is exactly in these small industries where the tensions between locals and foreigners are at the highest point, sometimes escalating into violence. The openness of the economy also extends to the openness of our society, the openness of our democracy and our way of life”.

“Our way of life” – did you hear that?

You would be forgiven for thinking that it came from an American mouth!

But we will come to that.

The first point to make is that Cde Mavimbela was clearly referring to Zimbabwe’s indigenisation laws that provide for “reserved sectors” which include, as he mentions, barber shops, hair salons, small retail and the taxi industry.

Now, if Cde Mavimbela has a problem with our indigenisation laws in particular this provision, he could be said to be a problem himself, for more reasons than one.

And one does not have to be political or diplomatic about it.

First of all, these reserved sectors are well crafted ideally (and has not been enforced) to protect indigenous Zimbabweans from unwarranted competition from outsiders who come to do jobs or provide services that indigenous people can do or provide.

We can cut hair.

Our women can plait hair.

The people who are selling from car boots want space in the buildings that they are being priced out of by well-heeled foreigners some of whom smuggle goods and use the shops as fronts for illegal activities.

Is that sounding xenophobic?

No, because xenophobia is unreasoned fear or dislike of foreigners and here we are trying to illustrate to the ambassador that whereas in South Africa they generally lack the basic skills and intent on such businesses, in Zimbabwe we have a surfeit of both the talents and purpose.

For that reason, it is unreasonable, almost criminal for the country to allow brick moulders from China when indigenous Zimbabweans can readily do that.

It requires no special talents, only the muscle, which a couple of unemployed guys could readily provide.

Economic sense tells us that foreigners coming to the country should bring us something unique and preferably big and competitive such as in the manufacturing sector.

The fact that a Chinese company, for example, accesses a licence, with the aid of some kickbacks possibly, and acquires land which it will leave behind scarred, is a prejudice to indigenes that must not be allowed.

Nor should it ordinarily be allowed to have foreigners come cook and serve us sadza, our staple food, which we can readily make and sell.

In fact, enterprising people are cooking that sadza at home, and at times in undesignated places, and selling it from cooler boxes or car boots or however convenient.

Now, it is not South Africa’s problem, or any foreign country for that matter that these people are not securing proper places, which authorities must avail.

However, faced with a surfeit of such talent, surely we do not need any foreigners who add next to zero value?

It’s called affirmative action – and there is nothing wrong with it.

In fact, it is better to legislate affirmative action than allow xenophobic gangs to run riot hacking foreigners with machetes and burning and stoning them.

It is worse when the same hoodlums that hack and burn and stone and kill foreigners do not have the sophistication of opening even a tuckshop or even a cigarette vending stall.

So that is a lesson Cde Mavimbela should take to heart.

And to say that you allow foreigners to run barber shops, hair salons, small retail and taxis to create conditions for their molestation is logically flawed, if not criminal.

Where is the openness there?

And who said South Africa is “open”.

Or are the contrasts between Sandton and Tembisa Cde Mavimbela’s idea of an open society?

By the way, what is the South African “way of life”?

Never had it quite occurred to us that this African brother so aspires to be American, and even his speech is a load of American mimicry.

And he tells us: “If I were to be liberal and quote one of Bill Clinton’s campaign slogans, I can say: ‘It is the economy, stupid!’ Part of the real reasons why we have such an overwhelming influx of immigrants into South Africa is because of the opportunities, real or perceived. And I cannot blame them for that.”

It is good that he acknowledges that it is down to perception.

South Africa is no heaven.

At least in heaven there are no thugs that burn people.

They belong to hell.

Not even America, that Cde Mavimbela seems to imagine as the exemplar, is heaven.

Ask the blacks that are being shot and killed willy-nilly almost the same way foreigners have been hounded in South Africa as we recently saw and have memories of from recent years.

Maybe he is correct, after all.

Source : The Herald