Sunday, 14 April 2013

Study Gauteng, Mr President, and ignore Mugabe

Posted  Saturday, April 13  2013 at  17:52

Mr Mwai Kibaki has retired from the political arena after 50 years of public service. At 52, Mr Uhuru Kenyatta became Kenya’s youngest president. He then played host to a motley crew of heads of state and government that included Zimbabwe’s 89-year-old Robert Gabriel Mugabe and South Africa’s Jacob Zuma.
Across the seas, Mrs Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s first and so far only woman premier, died at 87. In North Korea, Kim Jong Un caught the attention of the world. He, whose age is rumoured to be 28 or 30 or somewhere in between or slightly out of that bracket, threatens to use nukes against the United States of America.
So what could President Kenyatta learn from these goings-on as he starts his reign? Let us begin with Mrs Margaret Thatcher aka Maggie to the adoring tabloids or the Iron Lady to the disapproving Soviet Press. She was a conviction politician whose agenda was to stop Britain from becoming the sick man of Europe.
In the 1970s, in economic and political terms, the UK’s increasingly powerful trade unions held the politicians to ransom. They had weakened or brought down the governments of Edward Heath, Harold Wilson and James Callaghan. Crippling strikes were the disorder of the day, production stagnated and inflation went through the roof.
Mrs Thatcher was not a consensus politician; she forced her way, she fought her way, she wanted her way and had her way. The right insists she both changed and saved Britain. The left insists she divided Britain, made the rich richer and the poor poorer. She privatised state firms and kept inflation low. Both are now global trends.
Mrs Thatcher defended Britain without batting an eyelid and was always batting for British interests. In the 1980s she opposed sanctions against apartheid and branded Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress a terrorist and communist organisation. She said sanctions would hurt British interests.
She stood against the rest of the world because British firms were making money in South Africa. She loved President Mugabe even as he unleashed his murderous North Korea-trained Fifth Brigade on unarmed, defenceless and innocent people of Matabeleland. Why? Because his rival, Joshua Nkomo, hailed from their midst.
Surrender shareholding
Of course, she was not around when Harare began nationalising white-owned farms. She is not around as Harare tells Standard Bank to surrender part of its shareholding to locals or close shop. Yes, she would have stood up for the interests of the British.
Of course, President Kenyatta would not nationalise private land, would he? His father did not do it; dared not do it. His successors dared not do it. The biggest land owners in Kenya today are not white people, which means the Mugabe approach cannot be replicated here.
But, as we saw on the campaign trail and in his manifesto, President Kenyatta is ready to tackle Kenya’s most pervasive problem – land ownership.
Zimbabweans will go to the polls later this year. Mr Mugabe has said he intends to win this year’s presidential race and the one after that. Mr Mugabe has absolutely no time for the coalition government he and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai lead. Mr Kibaki and Mr Mugabe could consult on this one.
What lessons could young Kenyatta learn from 42-year-old Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo? Mr Kabila needs to know two things. One, if there is peace in the Congo, it would become a super power. Expansive Congo DR is rich in minerals, has abundant water, is all green with massive forests, and rich soils.
Two, the reason neighbouring and distant countries as well as all manner of buccaneers want to make the Congo DR their playground is simply because they want a share of the minerals. They want to plunder the wealth of the Congo. Whoever has the reins of power in Kinshasa must be strong at home and face down greedy neighbours.
Mr Kabila is weak, but surely he is treading far better than the youngster in Pyongyang. Look, here is a fellow who is pictured working at or admiring a computer the size of a piano and seated on some small wooden chair. Is this a fellow who should provoke a war with Seoul or Washington?
Forget Mr Zuma’s other weaknesses. The story from South Africa is the small (18,178 square kilometres) province of Gauteng. Wikipedia says it generates 10 per cent of the total GDP of sub-Saharan Africa and about seven per cent of the total African GDP. My take? Mr President, study Gauteng and stand up for Kenyans.
Kwendo Opanga is a media consultant

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