South Africa is one of the most developed countries in Africa. In fact, its natural and intellectual resources are far richer than some European countries.
Since its inception as a new democratic country in 1991, the country has scored a number of progresses in governance and in building its democratic institutions. Many countries, especially those in the African continent hoped to learn from South African experience and looked up on South Africa to be the role model in building a democratic society.
However, what happened in the past few months has shaded the light of hope that many Africans aspired to get from South Africa. The country’s president, Jacob Zuma has been witnessed supporting the Libyan autocrat Muammar Gaddafi over the oppressed Libyan people.
The world knows how merciless, Dictator Gaddafi was. Thousands of Libyans have been killed and tortured by him in the past 42 years. Even recently, at the beginning of the Libyan revolution, many Libyans, including the Libyan military personnel who opposed the killing of unarmed protestors were executed. South African politicians, including Mr. Zuma didn’t even condemn Gaddafi for these crimes.
Later in the revolution, after an enormous pressure by the AU and Gaddafi himself, Mr. Zuma entered in a negotiation mission to mediate the Libyan government and the National Transitional Council (NTC). Even then Mr. Zuma failed to be a true diplomat. He flew to Tripoli, met with Gaddafi, and flew back to South Africa without talking to the NTC. He proved himself to be an incompetent diplomat and statesman by imprudently ignoring the NTC who are the representatives of the Libyan people.
In the course of the revolution, South Africa, under Mr. Zuma, maintained its anti-democracy, anti-freedom position by supporting Gaddafi and his autocratic rule. Mr. Zuma appeared in public on many occasions and boldly defended Ghadafi as a Libyan leader.
Quite surprisingly, Mr. Zuma appeared in public again after Tripoli was controlled by the NTC. He again, refused to recognize the NTC. This was an insult to the Libyan freedom fighters who sacrificed their lives to free Libya from its merciless ruler. Moreover, it is demeaning to those South Africans who fought against slavery and suppression of the apartheid.
Mr. Zuma should be ashamed of his dirty politics and the lack of moral he displayed towards the Libyans’ struggle for freedom.
Let it be clear that there is no nation like South Africa that knows what freedom is. There are no people like South Africans who determinedly fought for freedom. But, its current leaders have failed to live up to the standards of free people. They endorsed repression over freedom by supporting African dictators. They preferred to be friends with dictators rather than saving millions of Africans who are treated like slaves on their own lands.
In the end, Gaddafi and all other African dictators will vanish, but history will live forever. Sadly, South Africa and its leader Mr. Zuma will be remembered for standing on the wrong side of history.
By Markose Yehune