Your editorial must be commended for pointing to the ideological roots of SA’s stance vis-à-vis Zimbabwe (“SA’s ineffective Zimbabwe policy needs to forsake ANC taboos”, September 23).

SA’s policy (as determined by the ANC) has indeed been unsuccessful in that Zimbabwe’s governance and economic crisis continues with no end in sight. It has, however, been successful in maintaining a corrupt and sclerotic “sister revolutionary party” in power. All things considered, the latter was the non-negotiable consideration, and to this end SA was willing to endure much real and reputational damage.

To comment that it is time for SA to “stand with the people of Zimbabwe” and not with its governing party misses the point. In the world view of a “revolutionary party” or “liberation movement”, the two are indistinguishable. Now finish the thought: ideology exerts formidable influence on SA’s domestic policy, too, seldom for the good.

The civil service was intentionally politicised to ensure effective party control over what should have been a professional and impartial apparatus. Expropriation without compensation offers nothing to deal with the failings of land reform, but would extend the reach of the government (and party) power over property. Race-based empowerment policy is, if anything, undermining growth and widening inequalities. Yet it remains sacrosanct and should, “if anything”, be strengthened.

SA is unlikely to “reform” if those in power are committed as a matter of deeply rooted principle to current policy. It is even less likely if the rest of society — business, the media, civic organisations — remains oblivious to this, and pins its hopes on a “reformist” president and for things to be done “better”.

The hope for this country will come in recognising and challenging the destructive ideological currents that have brought it to this point. SA’s approach to Zimbabwe is a warning of a far bigger and more immediate threat.

Terence Corrigan, Institute of Race Relations

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