‘There is no food, no medicine, there is no freedom.’ Such was the cry of anguish from one of the desperate protesters in the recent riots.

I refer to the riots in Cuba, where the people are suffering under a brutal regime far worse than any in South Africa. In our riots, there was plenty of food and medicine. Our rioters plundered huge amounts of both from supermarkets and pharmacies. ANC rule might be corrupt and incompetent but we still have a fair degree of freedom and democracy. There are some similarities between the riots in Cuba and South Africa, and some differences.

In 1959, Fidel Castro, a rich, white, bourgeois man seized power in Cuba from Fulgencio Batista, a mildly corrupt soldier of lowly class and mixed blood (not one of us, my dear!). The US government, with its unerring knack of doing the wrong thing in foreign affairs, helped Castro by an arms embargo against Batista. Castro declared himself a Communist and proceeded to do what communists always do: he crushed the working classes; he ended democracy and installed a reign of terror; he reduced Cuba from one of the most prosperous countries in Latin America into one of the poorest; he persecuted homosexuals (maricones); he impoverished the people but made himself one of the richest men in the world; and he turned Cuba from a country to which people wanted to come into a country from which people wanted to flee – in hundreds of thousands.

Big macho Fidel took any woman he wanted, and is said to have hundreds of children. He ruined Cuba. He is the root cause of the protests today. The current government in Cuba doesn’t use as much terror against its people as he did, allowing some protests. (He would have shot them all, with the assistance of his pretty sidekick, Che Guevara, who enjoyed executing unarmed democrats.)

In 1994, the ANC took over South Africa after ages of white minority rule, which had denied black people rights and liberties. The ANC inherited the strongest economy in Africa and excellent infrastructure, including superb electricity supply. It proceeded to run down the economy and wreck the infrastructure, including electricity supply. Its dreadful policies of racial engineering and state control ruined the lives of millions of black people and produced 43% unemployment.

Huge dangerous army

The inevitable result was a huge dangerous army of angry, helpless, hopeless, jobless young men feeling despised and rejected, waiting for any opportunity for violence and excitement, at the mercy of any opportunist who might call them to arms in practically any cause. The apparent cause this time was the imprisonment of Jacob Zuma.

When I look at newsreels of the Cuban protests, I see placards telling us that the protesters want freedom, the end of communism, decent medical care, and food. I haven’t seen many placards in South Africa asking for the release of Zuma – or indeed any other specific demands.

Commentators tell us that much of the South African rioting was plotted beforehand, part of complicated in-fighting among factions of the ANC, who hate each other, and use Zuma either as a rallying figure or a great anathema. No doubt. Every spontaneous uprising needs a lot of planning. But it seems to me that almost any immediate cause could have produced the bloodshed and destruction we have just seen. The profound cause is the same as that in Cuba: rage against a government that has failed them.

In both countries, Covid-19 has been an aggravating factor. I was interested to see the Cuban protesters complaining about their terrible healthcare. Hello? We are constantly told that Cuba has wonderful healthcare. Is this yet another lie about Cuba? Well, it’s a half truth, or rather a hundredth truth. It turns out that Cuba does have good medical services – but only for the elite, only for the small, bourgeois, communist ruling class, and for rich tourists. The rest of the people have terrible healthcare. A good predictor of what our NHI might bring?

Cuba and South Africa should both be booming now. Both are richly blessed by nature. South Africa suffered under stupid international sanctions, which prolonged apartheid; Cuba suffers under stupid US sanctions, which have strengthened the communist dictatorship by encouraging a feeling of siege.

Stop being stupid

The outside world should stop being stupid. More important is to change the inside worlds of the governments of Cuba and South Africa. Can either be reformed? It seems not. Communist reform has always led to dissolution. The greatest hope for Cuba is that what happened in the USSR in 1989 will happen to Cuba now.

In South Africa, the ANC seems incapable of reform. It was founded in its modern form on the lust for power. If it reforms, it will lose some of that power. It cannot let go. South Africa is doomed unless it is replaced. But by whom? Our only hope is the great re-alignment. That might be difficult to explain to the young man running with a stolen TV over a floor of shattered glass.

[Image: https://www.piqsels.com/en/public-domain-photo-fksme]

The views of the writer are not necessarily the views of the Daily Friend or the IRR

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