By THEMBILE NDABENI
Colonialists had become so much comfortable with the power and resources they had that they could not just happily leave the countries they colonised. This could be better understood as an off-spring/twin of imperialism. Central to imperialism is the extraction of profits at whatever cost. That is why after the end of Colonialism, its traits could still be detected.
Even after their reluctant departure, colonialists still wanted to have a control of their prey. Establishment of comprador-bourgeoisie was one of the best ways of keeping control of riches of former colonial states. This method works very well because the colonialists are not in the picture but remote control the locals in power. Most African leaders accepted this form of control for personal reasons; it made them rich, live luxurious life though ordinary people and the poorest of the poor live in starvation and misery. One good example of a comprador-bourgeoisie was Mobutu Se Seko. He worked with the colonial master in the plot that led to the death of Patrice Lumumba.
Mobutu Sese Seko became one of the richest if not the richest leader in Africa yet his people were one of the poorest in Africa. Comprador Se Seko did not care as long as his family was covered, living luxurious life above everybody. Even after independence he advanced in becoming rich.
Se Seko was not the only one, but there were and are many more. Some might have not been comprador-bourgeoisie but only comrade-bourgeoisie. Some were of a ‘special kind’. An example is Jonas Savimbi who though not in power was manipulated by the West. He was sponsored by the imperialists to continue fighting the democratically elected MPLA government while they were (imperialists) were busy reaping off the mineral resource, diamond. Should Savimbi have succeeded in toppling the MPLA, he would have been a comprador-bourgeoisie. He enriched himself through the royalties coming from the natural resources of Angola. The neighbour comprador-comrade-bourgeoisie Armando Gebuza also enriched himself. His people left to South Africa to compete over meagre resources with locals.
Colonel Muammar Gadaffi was a real comrade-bourgeoisie and demagogue. He was an ‘‘Emperor of Africa” dressed in martyr regalia! Forget about the country, Gadaffi himself was rich. He had the money to “sponsor” other African states to pay subscription fees to their regional bodies. He presented himself as a god-figure of Africa yet used his god-figure outlook for blindfolding purposes while he was busy maiming his people.
Comrade President Mugabe is another comrade-bourgeoisie and a demagogue presenting himself as an Africanist, Marxist and a revolutionary but lives in a mansion while his people are poverty-stricken and flee to countries like South Africa. That is clear when he diverts attention from his dictatorship to the West. His wife is “madame deficit” of Africa living a lavish life spending a lot of money in shoes while the people of Zimbabwe are eating from the bins.
The daughter of the President of Angola dos Santos is a billionaire and the richest woman in Africa. How did she accumulate that wealth?
South Africa is comprador-bourgeoisie in a way. Transition from the apartheid system to democracy was smooth in South Africa. This is why South Africa is applauded and hailed as a good model of peace, reconciliation and democracy. But that culminated from a compromise arrived at the expense of the oppressed. Comrade-bourgeoisie is in power, earning high salaries and complementing them with tenders and kick-backs. They also do that to their families, friends and girlfriends as well. Some end up divorcing their wives for young ladies. Nkandla is one controversial issue ever after advent of democracy in South Africa.
Beside exceptions, in reality there are no longer real comrades in power in Africa. There could be exceptions. There is still comprador-bourgeoisie in small pockets. Comrade-bourgeois class is very much prevalent in Africa though some in South Africa disguise by dressing in red. Forget about their red regalia especially the socks and ties that are for blindfolding purposes. These people started as honest comrades but changed along the way. This is why Letta Mbuli sings “it is not yet Uhuru”. Comprador and comrade-bourgeoisie is an indicator of “is not yet Uhuru”.
The solution is having a strong informed and engaging populace and strong genuine opposition. A cherry on top of the cake is having independent bodies/institutions like Chapter 9 institutions South Africa have. These institutions should be charged with the responsibility of ensuring impartiality, sustainability of democracy and rule of law. It can be sealed by reviving and empowering the African Parliament to be a real parliament in the sense of the word, giving real powers to really act without fear or favour.
Then a strong and working department is formed where heads of states, ministers, and other government officials would account for their actions. It should also have a special structure of dealing with looters of Africa from the ones inside to those from abroad. Make sure that they are all dealt with according. I mean both the bourgeoisie (masters) and their juniors, comprador-bourgeoisie (servants). Also despots who might not be comprador-bourgeoisie must be dealt with as well harshly.
They must be named and shamed! There are also other expectations from leaders, values. Leaders are expected to be exemplary, first, as heads of households with working marriages/stable lives. There are challenges in a marriage and private life broadly but they are expected to do their best. And do that in serving their people as well. The West did a lot of damage but cannot always be the scapegoat. Comprador/comrade-bourgeois is in contradiction with service to the people in general, the working class in particular.
In most African countries with examples I made, the gap between the rich and the poor is huge. In neighbouring Zimbabwe it is not just the gap but the toiling masses are poverty-stricken and subjugated. This is why they are flooding to South Africa and elsewhere.
This attitude is in contradiction with the ideals of the founding fathers of independence of the continent, Africa, Haile Selassie, Kwame Nkrumah, Patrice Lumumba and most sacrificed and died for. This is not the way to United States of Africa. Therefore allowing them and covering them instead of challenging them is betraying the founding fathers and putting a stamp on the negative perception on Africa.
That is why steps such as Thabo Mbeki’s High-Level Panel on illicit financial flows need to be supported and other relevant efforts to be initiated. One example is Save South Africa, a coalition of civil society institutions against President Zuma who is sinking South Africa to step down.
On top are heavyweights like former Minister and Director General Trevor Manuel and Sipho Pityana consecutively. There is also Forum of Institutions supporting Democracy in South Africa. From the side of the state there are chapter 9 institutions. Despots need to be brought to book, go to trials, be tried but in their countries’ courts and continent, Africa. Mugabe and Zuma, neighbours in Dubai?
- Thembile Ndabeni is a freelance Writer, Researcher and Commentator. He holds Master’s degree in South African politics and political economy from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.