Sunday, October 23, 2011

Southern African Spring on the Way

Sibusiso Banda

There are many countries in Africa where government rule with an iron fist and probably, in some, it’s just a matter of time before there is a Tunisia moment or even worse – a Libya moment. Workers in Swaziland often take to the street to fight for a basic living wage and this year universities had to shut down in that country as lecturers were being paid just transport money while King Mswati III continues to live a lavish lifestyle. It has become apparent that the country is in trouble as South Africa had to give a loan to Swaziland after being refused by the international Monetary Fund for its refusal to implement fiscal reforms.

Zimbabweans have gone through several bad periods, but the worst must have been when there was a shortage of food in that country’s shops, the currency was worthless and eventually replaced by the US dollar and the South African Rand. Rather than taking to the streets like the people of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya – Zimbabweans braved the razor wire on the border with South Africa with some even facing a crocodile infested river to make it to a place where they can have a better life.

In Malawi many tested that country’s president, Bingu wa Mutharika, this year and he cracked down on those who were brave enough to question his leadership. There were reports of arrests in that country and many protest leaders had to go into hiding as a result. Wa Mutharika’s government even stopped the state broadcaster from showing images of the violence that was happening in the country during that period – but just like elsewhere in southern Africa, Malawians went back to their normal lives very quickly.

In May 2011 schools had to shut down in Botswana as this southern African nation was facing many protests from its citizens. This came after teachers and other civil servants had taken to the streets too to fight for higher pay as their last one had been in 2008. Riot police fired teargas at the students as a result.
All this shows that if Southern African leaders are not careful they too will be taken out of power by those they lead. Some of these countries are called democracies.

Africa has seen the fall of Libya, Tunisia and Egypt and it seems like the people of Swaziland and Zimbabwe are nearing breaking point too.

What we have seen this year shows that tolerance is now running low.

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