‘Synchronously’ is not a word I have ever used: it means ‘happening, or arising, at precisely the same time’. It is apt for these times, and for the two governments discussed in this article.

On Friday 9 July protests broke out, two days after former president Jacob Zuma was jailed in KwaZulu-Natal. Before he handed himself over late in the night of Wednesday 7 July, supporters massed at his home at Nkandla to prevent the police from arresting him. 

On the same Friday, people looted shops in Mooi River, and burnt and looted trucks travelling up and down the N3, the main arterial road for commercial trucks moving goods to and from Durban harbour. Nearly thirty trucks were looted and burnt.

Then the mass looting, burning and destruction took on a life of its own. In the days that followed, protesters blockaded roads and burnt down buildings. Shopping centres and factories were attacked and looted.

People who are poor, unemployed, disaffected or just plain opportunistic caused massive damage in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

Farms in KZN were attacked, and crops and buildings were burnt. Farmers have suffered major losses because they can’t get their products to markets.

All the sugar mills in KZN closed after cane trucks were hijacked, mills threatened and cane farms set alight. About 300 000 tonnes of cane worth about R180 million were destroyed.

Citrus exports have been halted, More than half our citrus is exported. South Africa is the world’s second largest citrus exporter.

Supply chains have been disrupted and supermarkets have closed, creating panic over shortages. Pharmacies were looted, resulting in the disruption in the supply of chronic medication and all that that implies.

No shops to receive deliveries

The destruction of shops also means that there will simply be no shops to receive deliveries.

The Covid-19 vaccination programme has been set back, making a fourth wave all the more likely later in the year.

A report to clients by Peter Attard Montalto of Intellidex (The long insidious tail, cockup vs conspiracy, policy response now looms.  South Africa, 14 July 2021) provides some of the costs of these riots:

  • National retail –
    • R5bn cost;
    • 800 non-shopping centre shop stores looted, 100 stores burnt out;
    • 200 shopping centres looted and majority destroyed.
  • Durban economic zone
    • R1.5bn stock lost
    • R15bn damage to property
    • 50k informal traders affected
    • 40k businesses affected
    • 150k jobs at risk, 1.5mn at homes without incomes
    • Durban GDP impact R20bn

The chaos is an inevitable result of the mismanagement, theft and incompetence of the African Nationalist Congress government. The ANC is trying to march South Africa to a glorious socialist future. South Africa has been a powder keg.

And over 12 000km north-west of us and six hours behind us, the regime that the ANC probably loves and cherishes the most is experiencing chaos of its own.

On Sunday 11 June 2021 protests broke out in San Antonio de los Baños, 32km south-west of Havana, Cuba. The unprecedentedly large anti-government protests were astounding because Cuba has been a rigidly authoritarian, socialist country for 62 years and protests are prohibited. The protests spread to Havana and Santiago de Cuba.

‘We have nothing’

One protester said: ‘We’re here because of the repression against the people. They’ve got us starving to death, all of Havana is falling apart, and we don’t have homes. We have nothing. There’s money to build hotels and all sorts of things, and us, they’ve got us hungry and experiencing great difficulties.’ Protesters were also demanding anti-Covid vaccines and shouting ‘Down with the dictatorship!’

The Cuban-American writer Antonio García Martínez observes ‘The sad reality is that countries can and do choose to commit suicide, as we’ve seen with Syria and Venezuela more recently, and Cuba, three generations ago. Embracing some revolutionary philosophy that promises to heal all ills and right all wrongs, and then exploiting the worst human tendencies to implement that wild-eyed vision, is the sure path to ruin.’

He describes a visit to Cuba in 2017 as ‘one of the most memorable and unpleasant experiences of my life’. 

In the five years since former US president Barak Obama visited Cuba to thaw relations, shortages have increased and people have started going hungry.

The only real difference between South Africa and Cuba is freedom of speech in the former and not in the latter. Otherwise, at the moment, the two peoples have more in common than they might ever have imagined.

The relationship between the two countries is the sort of romantic historical bromance that grew in a very different time and place. The Cubans were regarded as comrades in the ANC’s liberation struggle, when the Cuban military came to the aid of the Angolan People’s Armed Forces for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) in the stalemate battle of Cuito Cuanavale. Cuito was originally part of a civil war but eventually became a Cold War battle between Angola and the South African Defence Force.

Hypocrisy                 

The hypocrisy of the chattering classes of the United States in desiring a socialist future was encapsulated by Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, son of Cuban exiles. Rubio tweeted: ‘The extortionist ring known as the Black Lives Matter organization took a break today from shaking down corporations for millions & buying themselves mansions to share their support for the Communist regime in #Cuba.’

To those Cuban doctors and engineers who are in South Africa earning a pittance, while South Africa pays their full salaries to the Cuban government as a show of solidarity and support, it must feel like being caught between a rock and a hard place.

Either way the allies are both experiencing the consequences of governments that embrace command economics but enrich the governing elite: poverty, hunger and anger. May both governments fall from grace and governance!

[Image: Juan Luis Ozaez on Unsplash and Chickenonline from Pixabay]

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