North of South

At the time of independence, Zimbabwe had zero debt. By June 1996 debts totalled 130% of GDP.

At the time of Zimbabwean independence in 1980 it was widely and correctly pointed out that the educational level of Robert Mugabe's government was far higher than that of the preceding Smith government.

Nowadays another statistic seems more relevant, that Smith's government bequeathed its successor a zero debt but that Zimbabwe now has debts totalling 130% of GDP. What has all this borrowed money bought Zimbabwe? Average real wages are back down to 1965 levels, the progress of a whole generation wiped out. Unemployment, which stood at under 7% in 1980, is now widely estimated to be as high as 40%. Social services of every kind are deteriorating, often to the point of collapse.

Not surprisingly, this has led to a retrospective revaluation of Ian Smith. Not that the whites left in Zimbabwe have a good word for him: for the young, who proudly refer to themselves as Zimbabwe democrats, his overt racism placed him forever beyond the pale; for the old he is at best remembered as a man who led them into a blind alley and cost them the lives of many of their sons.

Many Africans, on the other hand, remember him quite fondly for there is no serious dispute that most Africans were materially better off under Smith than they are now. As Mugabe's vast presidential motor-cades tear screaming towards the airport, not a few also warmly recall the way that Smith, when he wanted to go to the airport, would simply drive himself there without so much as a chauffeur for company.

Airports, one realises, have a considerable place in the mythology of central Africa. You meet passengers who lost their flight because some President, having forgot to arrange a foreign trip, simply arrived at the airport and commandeered the waiting jumbo for himself. In most of central Africa you have to pay $20 airport tax to be allowed to leave the country and pilots tell how they have to pick up great sacks of these self-same $20 bills from State House to deposit them in presidential Swiss bank accounts.

One newspaper editor lost his job when he dared to report that Mugabe had tried to jump the airport landing queue to be ahead of Mandela. You hear of great airport smuggling feats, of gold bars spirited out of lavatory cubicles, of diamonds secreted in tubes of toothpaste. The stories swirl through the airport lounges, curl down the runways.

What has the debt bought?

But to go back to the question: what has all that debt - the product of 10 years' socialism and six years of half-hearted economic reforms - bought? Certainly not growth: at independence Zimbabwe was classified as a middle income developing country alongside the likes of Bolivia, while now it is counted among the world's poorer nations.

For a while the debt-led expansion was apparently buying better education and health, but that turned into a mirage as both budgets were repeatedly slashed. Some 30% of the population are now reckoned to be H1V+. Millions of children will soon be Aids orphans and there is not enough money to feed them properly, let alone educate them.

Did the debt buy equality? By no means: inequalities have grown enormously. Mugabe still likes to describe himself as a Marxist-Leninist but the helicopter he recently bought for US$20 million has to be contrasted with the fact that over a thousand Zimbabweans have died of malaria this year because the requisite quinine tablets [costing $2 a time] could not be afforded and that polio victims are multiplying because of the state's inability to buy polio vaccine. If Mugabe had been willing to cut even 0.001 % of his helicopter bill, those malaria victims would still be alive and those children would have been saved from polio.

The point of the helicopter was to enable Mugabe to tour the country in style during the recent presidential election in which he was the single, unopposed candidate. The hangers-on who accompanied him on these trips needed a further three helicopters. Even though the state budget allocates over $3 million a year to Mugabe's ZANU-PF for such purposes, the government has now been forced to admit that it illegally dipped into trust accounts held by the country's magisterial courts in order to finance extra election spending. It is not disputed that such an action would, ordinarily, have led to criminal prosecution.

The sheer outrageous selfishness of such acts [and there are many more] is the key to understanding the debt. In the early years some of the money went on Afro-populism - the compulsory purchase of white-owned land, for example. But chiefly it went on the quadrupling of state payrolls, theoretically Justified by welfarist policies but in fact required in order to give jobs, contracts, patronage and power to the brothers, cousins and daughters of the new elite.

And while this development was cloaked in the rhetoric of Marxism the one thing the government did not wish to encourage was a class analysis of the situation. For, undeniably, the central motor power of the new Zimbabwean state was the thrust to self-enrichment of a new bureaucratic bourgeoisie, happy to call itself socialist until about 1990, thereafter willing to speak a different rhetoric but, one sees only too clearly, with the same underlying purposes of primary accumulation and class formation. Words are words but jobs and contracts mean serious money.

The new class

The ruthless selfishness of this new class is not to be doubted, and nor is its cynicism. Mugabe hammered home three great themes in his election campaign: indigenisation of the economy, the expropriation of white-owned land and increased public spending on rural infrastructure, schools, clinics - and even a new university.

All economically literate Zimbabweans, a category which presumably includes the President, know this was nonsense. Vast tracts of already expropriated land have been handed to political cronies and the rest lies idle and unredistributed. Indeed, it is the

terrible neglect of this rich land which threatens to turn Zimbabwe, for long the breadbasket of its region, into a net food importer.

The indigenisation of the economy is a frankly racist slogan: what was meant was a transfer of resources from white to black Zimbabweans, both of them indigenous. But the truth is that a prime lending rate of 22% and inflation of 27% is throttling black entrepreneurs. The promise of extra public expenditure and an extra university arc simply jokes. When interest payment on the debt runs, as now, at 30% of the budget, all other spending has to be cut, with the University of Zimbabwe in the front line for such cuts.

It is common to blame Zimbabwe's problems on the World Bank's Economic Structural Adjustment Programme [ESAP] under which the economy now labours. Throughout Africa one is now so accustomed to the litany of complaint about ESAPs that it is surprising that almost no one asks the sort of questions that you would ask of a friend who got into such a dire state of indebtedness that the bank starts running his life. Questions like, but who exactly did the borrowing? What did he actually do with the money? Presumably the loan was taken out on the assumption that it could be repaid, so what went wrong? And so on. But, of course, such questions do not really deal with the problem and in the Zimbabwean case the World Bank does seem to have been at fault.

In 1989-90 the Bank revised its lending terms and [it now emerges], against the advice of its officials stationed in Harare, its head office in Washington decided Zimbabwe merited more huge loans. The Harare government took all the cash on offer and has, since then, had to do what the Bank wants. The Bank's crucial mistake was that its policies do not really work unless the recipient government believes in such policies - and Zimbabwe's didn't.

The $7.6 billion debt - $4.6 billion owed abroad and $3 billion at home - is clearly unpayable, particularly when one takes into account the fact that the budget deficit is running at around 11% and that, now that foreign lending has dried up, domestic borrowing is racing ahead at hundreds of millions of dollars a month. There are only four possible ways out of this very tight spot.

The first would be roughly what is being attempted now, trying to cut the budget deficit and ultimately run a budget surplus with which to repay the loans. Since two-thirds of the budget goes on debt interest and salaries, and since it is politically difficult to cut jobs, the only way to save is by cutting the capital budget - which is why every aspect of the Zimbabwean infrastructure, from the university to the road network, is being run into the ground.

The second way out would be through debt relief or forgiveness. The donors see no reason to do this for a country whose policies are so often perverse, which has so profligately spent itself into a trap, and which is still far better off than such neighbours as Malawi or Mozambique.

A third way out would be to privatise state industries - but the problem is that the state has hung on to them far too long and run them down and into debt: the net value to be realised is no longer that great.

The fourth way out would be to increase the current 25% rate of inflation to old-style Brazilian levels of hyper-inflation. But while this would get rid of the domestic debt it would do nothing for the foreign debt and would do enormous damage to the economy in a host of other ways.

ZANU-PF: A wasting asset

Politically, Zimbabwe is clearly in the later stages of decomposition of the de facto one party state, its only remaining political asset being the prestige and respect which Mugabe still retains personally for having led the country to independence and peace. This respect does not percolate down even as far as Vice President Joshua Nkomo.

While I was in Harare, Nkomo, speaking at his son's funeral, bitterly attacked whites for having brought to Africa the Aids which had killed his son. Aids, it transpired, was a white plot to steal African wealth by killing off its holders. Worse, whites had discovered a cure for Aids but were refusing to divulge this to Africans.

White Zimbabweans I met were prone to praise Nkomo for his frankness in admitting his son had had Aids. I would then remind them of the rest of his speech. "Oh well, he's been a tremendous racist for some time", ran the typical response. "That's not new. And the rest of his speech was crazy, of course: you'd expect that too. But it's good that he was open about the Aids factor."

The ruling party, ZANU-PF, is increasingly wracked by ethnic politicking between the various Shona clans and the possible defection of the Karangas to the side of the Matabele. When Mugabe's most likely rival, Edison Zvogbo - now marooned as Minister without Portfolio - had a car accident recently, the main question was whether or not this was "a black dog". The phrase originated with the fatal accident suffered by Zimbabwe's most outspoken MP, Sidney Mulunga, when his driver reportedly swerved to miss a black dog. Ever since then "a black dog" has been common parlance for a politically convenient death. There is, in fact, no reason to believe that either the Mulunga or Zvogbo cases were deliberately contrived but the very terms denotes an almost fatal degree of public cynicism.

According to official figures 31 % of voters turned out to vote in the recent presidential election but not many people believe even that figure. At some polling stations, of 3 000 registered voters, only a hundred presented themselves in the course of two days; in one central Harare polling station ZimRights, the Zimbabwe human rights organisation, counted just fourteen.

The right to vote, for which so many Zimbabweans recently died, is now treated not only with indifference but often with bitter scepticism. Few believe that Mugabe will present himself at another presidential election: there is persistent rumour of a retirement in 1997, of how no successor has been groomed and how ZANU-PF may fly apart if Mugabe goes. Nobody believes that it would be possible to build such a broad alliance in today's conditions: if humpty-dumpty falls no one will be able to put the pieces together again.

In 1980 Mugabe took over a debt-less country with a developed infrastructure, an enormous international fund of goodwill and a promising prospect of inward foreign investment: in the first year of independence economic growth hit 8%. He will, however, leave a disastrous inheritance -indeed the really startling thing about the Mugabe period is the speed and thoroughness with which the country's economy has been ruined, with most of the essential damage done in the first ten years.

The former liberal prime minister, Sir Garfield Todd, spoke recently of how "Our beloved

Zimbabwe is today sick to its soul, directionless, exhausted and, for many reasons, physical and spiritual, in a state of deep sorrow."

New straws in the wind

There is, however, a brighter side. The courts have shown an independent mind, notably in upholding the assertion by the Independent, Margaret Dongo, that she had been robbed of electoral victory by ZANU-PF ballot-rigging. Dongo won the re-run and has been the sole voice of critical reason in Parliament ever since, apparently unabashed by the attacks on her house twice mounted by ZANU-PF mobs.

This and other recent court decisions have made the public realise that there may, after all, be a way of redress despite the suffocating effects of the de facto one party state. With this new breeze blowing through the body politic, ZimRights, which now has slots on TV and radio, finds that people are coming forward asking for help - not just with cases from this year and last but from ten and even fifteen years back - about matters for which they had previously despaired of gaining redress.

There are other straws in the wind too. Local non-governmental organisations [NGOs] and international agencies alike launched a campaign of fierce opposition to the recent legislation extending government powers over NGOs; the government has been forced to back down over constitutional proposals which would have infringed women's rights; during the recent election campaign it proved simply impossible to dragoon people into attendance at ZANU-PF meetings as in the past -and Mugabe was forced publicly to condemn the ZANU-PF practice of forcing pupils out of schools to attend his meetings; and many ZANU-PF MPs, shaken by signs that their party's hold is weakening, are quietly devoting themselves to constituency work in the belief that their job security in future may depend less on party patronage and more on their being well dug in locally.

There is undoubtedly a more assertive popular mood and louder demands are heard that MPs and councillors should be accountable. NGOs talk of a reawakening of civil society, of a drift away from the use of political violence and how the much-feared Central Intelligence Organisation is not behaving as badly as of yore. Whether this relaxation of mood

could survive a real threat to ZANU-PF's continued tenure in power is doubtful, but Zimbabwe, in this the autumn of its patriarch, is at last beginning to dream of something different and better.

The Sparta of central Africa

To go from Zimbabwe to Malawi is to realise that things could always be worse and that free market shock treatment can undermine its own purpose. For many years it seemed that the one cardinal virtue of the arch-tyrant, Kamuzu Banda, was that he had avoided the debt trap and brought order and rapid economic growth to his bone-poor country.

Certainly, to this day one can find no single Malawian who disapproves of the way Banda cultivated good relations with apartheid South Africa in the teeth of OAU disapproval: it meant money and jobs and there is no higher political good than that in Malawi, which is one of the poorest countries on earth.

While growth remained high even Banda's odder whims could be tolerated, such as the Kamuzu Academy, where the future elite were given a strict classical education. "I didn't mind the Latin", one of the Academy's young women graduates told me. "It was having to do Ancient Greek that I found a bit much." Not that she would have wanted to say even this at the time.

Kamuzu Banda did not dance to the OAU's tune

The regime prevented not only free political activity but even the mildest expression of dissent while Banda's disciplinarian fiat governed - even private behaviour, dress codes and the like: Malawi was to become the Sparta of central Africa.

Inevitably, one party rule brought corruption, human rights abuse, perverse policies and the abandonment of the rule of law. Long before the end, Banda's Malawi resembled Sparta much less than it did Caligula's Rome - and it, too, plunged into debt. This opened the way for the donor freeze of 1992 which set the stage for Banda's eviction from power.

Two groups took the gap: Malawian exiles in South Africa used the powerful transmitters of the SABC to broadcast their message of defiance into every village, and the Catholic Church, to which 40% of the population belongs, had a toughly critical Episcopal letter read from every pulpit in the land. Banda's police, alerted of this unheard-of act of sedition, arrived panting at many a church door -too late.

The churches, organised into the Public Affairs Committee, then became the midwife of the multi-party elections of 1994. These saw Banda's Malawi Congress Party [MCP] reduced to 56 seats, allowing the United Democratic Front [85 seats) and the Alliance for Democracy (36 seats] to form a coalition government under President Bakili Muluzi.

ESAP again

Muluzi's government is, in general, commendably liberal but seems motivated mainly by hatred of the old MCP symbols - it is busily changing the flag and the currency away from the old MCP imprint. Muluzi is usually viewed as a decent man, though weak and indecisive - an image it is difficult for him to avoid given that donor agencies and states contribute more than half the national budget and that economic policy [the usual ESAP prescription of privatisation, deregulation and devaluation] is wholly prescribed from outside.

This is harsh medicine in so poor a country: one notes that the term "working class" is used in Malawi to denote a privileged group [= those with jobs] and that even this group is feeling the pinch. Office-workers and teachers talk of eating "air hamburgers", that is, of having just one meal a day.

Privatisation has caused job losses as has trade liberalisation: as in Zimbabwe textile firms are going out of business one after another, unable to cope simultaneously with tough South African tariffs and cheap Asian imports. Inflation amounts to 350% in three years, crime and corruption have both sharply increased and there is, at every level of society, an air of desperation. This is never far away.

The Blantyre hotel I stayed in was taken over by local whites from the tea plantations for a big society wedding. The blushing young bride and her fresh-faced young handmaidens rushed up and down staircases, long trains trailing and pink bosoms heaving, chattering animatedly in the accents of Surrey and Berkshire. Around the swimming pool, amidst the swarming suits and dinner jackets, there was the inevitable kilted Scotsman, a dirk in his sock. I thought of that dirk when, later, I heard that the tea plantations of the south, whence these folk hailed, are suffering repeated land invasions by desperate and landless squatters. The government, keen to avoid such confrontations, is encouraging mass relocation to the north.

To these miseries one must add the fact of Aids. "The nation is dying", one colleague told me in awed tones. "The army's the worst. If you go into army camps you find empty offices without officers. But you notice it more with the poor. With the well-off, they look OK till the last few weeks and then they're dead. Quite a lot of our by-elections are caused by MPs dead of Aids." Here in South Africa one hears of six MPs dying of Aids but, from the north, one glimpses ahead a future when that six will be sixty.

An uncertain future

The government debates, worries, seems unsure. The problem is that it doesn't have much control over the economic policy which is all that most people want to talk about. But it is also feeling its way amidst the forces that brought down a generation-long dictatorship. For civil society is flexing its muscles. The Public Affairs Committee which brought down Banda is still very much in evidence and there has been an explosion of NGOs, which hardly existed under Banda but which have quintupled in number since 1990. NGO activists generally wish Muluzi well but, badly burnt by the Banda experience, are deeply suspicious of all government.

Among Africans liberals - the majority now - the chief lament is that ESAP is manufacturing votes for Banda. The old man is now around 100 and, most of the time, is visibly gaga. But he trots about, inaugurates MCP occasions, and makes enough sense to utter the odd apologetic note about the past.

No one fears a return of Banda but liberals are anguished by the fact that the present difficulties are creating a popular nostalgia for his authoritarian rule in much the same way that chaos in Russia has created a nostalgia for Stalin. In the villages the word is that "Banda killed individuals but the present government is killing the masses".

The worry is, in a word, that economic liberalisation is undermining political liberalisation. There is a lot in this. If ever there was a case for debt reduction or debt forgiveness in the cause of good government, Malawi is surely that case.

Zambia: Democracy worn out

Democracy arrived in Malawi in 1994 and seems fragile. In Zambia, where it arrived in 1991, it already seems worn out. Nothing has revealed this more clearly than the approach of fresh elections in October. President Frederick Chiluba's Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD], which ousted Kenneth Kaunda's United National Independence Party [UNIP] last time, has spent most of the year moving the goalposts in an attempt to guarantee a second victory.

Two separate prizes are at stake: the presidency, for which Chiluba is challenged by Kaunda, Dean Mungomba's Zambian Democratic Congress [ZADECO] and the liberal, Roger Chongwe; and the MMD's two-thirds majority in parliament (it holds 137 of the 164 seats], which gives it a legislative free hand.

The MMD has been using that precious majority to ram through a Constitutional Amendment Bill which disbars Kaunda, his deputy, Chief Inyambo Yeta, and Mr Mungomba from standing. The original intention was to disqualify Kaunda by a clause preventing anyone of foreign parentage from standing [KK's parents were Malawian] but when the protests of the donor countries became too strong - for Zambia too is in the same dreary debtors' court of ESAP plus donor dependence -this clause was dropped in favour of one limiting any president to two terms. This seems innocuous enough until one realises that the whole Bill is to be given retrospective effect, which means that KK is disqualified by virtue of having already been President for twenty-seven years.

A further clause, disbarring traditional leaders from involvement in public affairs, knocks out Yeta. Ayet further one, requiring candidates to have lived in Zambia for twenty consecutive years before the election, knocks out Mungomba [who lived abroad for nine years].

That no clause has been thought up to disbar the liberal, Chongwe - generally acknowledged to be the best individual candidate - derives merely from the fact that he is not thought to have a sufficient ethnic or regional base to be a major threat.

All year long these monstrous amendments have been fiercely resisted by Zambia's now quite significant network of human rights NGOs as well as by the donor states. The fact that they have nonetheless gone through is not just a matter of guaranteeing Chiluba re-election.

Many MMD Ministers and MPs have become rich with a speed and completeness that parliamentary salary cheques alone cannot explain. They are well aware that as things stand the MMD is likely to lose over half its seats - but that those losses can be minimised if UN1P and ZADECO can be weakened by having their presidential standard-bearers struck down.

In this, as in much else, Chiluba merely fronts for the interests of the ruling cabal. He is an odd, low-key and severely uncharismatic figure, much given to born-again Christian homilies. I watched him telling Zambians that they had to support Israeli strikes into Lebanon "because the Bible tells us the Jews are the chosen people".

To the delight of Christian fundamentalists and the dismay of liberal Christians - not to mention Muslims - Chiluba's constitution also pronounces Zambia to be a Christian country. [The Zambia TV announcer I watched, in her eagerness to please, told us that "Zambia has to support Israel because Zambia is a Christian country and Israel is a Christian country".]

KK: A bitter heritage

Although the constitution Bill has now passed through parliament, the donors' opposition will continue all the way down to the wire - for it is taken as axiomatic that to disbar KK will lead to mass civil disobedience and, ultimately, to violence.

One can, nonetheless, sympathise with the notion that it is high time that he quit the scene. His offer to once again become "father of the nation" connects into a Zambian indignation that the country has lost the supposed international role it enjoyed under KK, but Kaunda is the sort of father a country would be better off without.

More than anyone else he is responsible for Zambia's economic ruin and although he was not, by African standards, a particularly harsh dictator, his hands are far from clean. He ran a one party state, never allowed a free press, an opposition or free elections and many of his political opponents died in jail.

The fact that members of human rights groups-who were not allowed to operate in Zambia under Kaunda - are today nonetheless seriously torn as to whether or not to support KK, is eloquent testimony to the desperate straits to which less than five years of Chiluba has reduced them.

The Chiluba government is unpopular partly because of the harshness of ESAP: there is negative growth, 45% inflation and rising unemployment. Amidst this general immiseration government Ministers, aware that their tenure may be short, have been flagrantly lining their pockets.

Not long ago the Minister for Legal Affairs rolled up at the Bank of Zambia with a government cheque made out to himself for 210 million kwachas [US $ 168,000] in cash. The permanent secretary who ordinarily signs such cheques had felt unable to sign this one and disappeared from the Ministry. Bank officials pointed out, aghast, that that many kwachas would fill a number of large suitcases. This was, however, not a problem for the Minister had brought two men with him, bearing four large suitcases in which to carry away the money.

The incident received wide publicity thanks to the Lusaka Post, edited by the courageous Fred M'Membe, but neither the Finance Minister nor the President did anything about it. Even the MMD national secretary, as the election nears, has begun to inveigh against "MMD instant millionaires".

An air of sleaze

The air of sleaziness that hangs over the government is not lessened by the fact that, although Zambia has handled its voter registration for a generation, it has now given the job to Nikuv, a somewhat shadowy Israeli company [it is not registered as a company in Israel] with a reputation for clandestine activity, provoking deep misgivings about the implications for a free and fair election. The government refuses to say why it gave the job to Nikuv and why proper tender procedures were not observed.

Meanwhile, no one knows under what electoral law or system they will be voting and the government, when more transparency is demanded, talks of how it has already "made many concessions to the people". For- and this is the key to the situation -the MMD elite believe that "democracy" was something that happened in 1991 and that they are its corporal fulfilment, its embodiment on earth, so to speak. They emphatically do not see democracy as a process to whose rules they and others are equally and continuingly subject.

On the CIA short-list

The donor states and agencies are close to despair over Zambia. The CIA Director, John Deutch, flew into Zambia recently to brief government leaders on a new CIA study which showed Zambia near the top of a short list of countries which the Agency believed to be on the brink of disintegration.

When Chiluba introduced his original constitution, the reaction was pure horror: fudges who annoyed the government could be fired on personal or political grounds, with even their pensions cancelled; parliament [i.e. the MMD majority] was placed above the law; the Director for Public Prosecutions could be fired by the President, who was also given power to pardon MPs for any crime at all, even murder. The British decided they were not paying for this and simply withdrew their balance of payments support.

Already the IMF had frozen its aid because of government default on earlier commitments, and the jailing [without charge] of the Post editor, Fred M'Membe, led to a further donor freeze. Since then the constitution has in effect been continuously negotiated with the donor states. Meanwhile the freeze deprived Zambia of foreign exchange, causing the kwacha to collapse by nearly 40% in a month.

"I supported the MMD when it was formed, to get rid of Kaunda and the one party state", Fred M'Membe told me as I sat in his office. "That seems a long time ago now".

Like the NGOs, the Post is under enormous pressure. A government-induced advertising squeeze means that even firms as big as Lever Brothers are scared to place ads with the Post, but Fred is a relentlessly cheerful and energetic man and one senses a confidence that things can't go on much longer the way they are in Zambia.

One can see why. In the villages, people who bought a bag of maize for Kw.250 under Kaunda are now paying Kw. 17,000 - and some are dying from starvation.

Appearances can be deceptive: I point out to Fred that there are plenty of nice cars flashing by on the road beneath his office. He laughs: "Yes, but most of them will be driven by crooks, especially drug-dealers. And eight out often of those cars will be stolen from South Africa". For this is the reality of unequal exchange, as South African goods flood in and Zambians, like others in the region, have too little to sell back.

One response is illegal movement, as millions of [illegal] immigrants flood southwards. Another is illegal trade. From Mozambique AK-47s pour into South Africa, from Zambia it's drugs. The trade is so pervasive that recently the wife of a Zambian cabinet member was caught selling drugs in South Africa: she was, apparently, pardoned to avoid a diplomatic incident.

Looking south

In each country I was talking to the often deeply impressive young people who staff the human rights NGOs of the region. At some point in every conversation they would make some allusion to the new South Africa as now having to go through some of the problems they had grown wearily familiar with. "For god's sake", said one, "don't appoint anyone except on merit. We did that and it's the road to ruin."

There was, universally, pleasure at South Africa's liberation but a wary suspicion that first generation African nationalists have a more or less built-in inclination towards the one party state, towards undemocratic hegemony in every sphere.

For one generation on, the rhetoric of liberation, indeed the whole language of African nationalism, cuts very little ice with such folk. It is the language of the preceding generation, one which failed them, oppressed them and robbed them.

Most strikingly of all, African nationalism has failed to defend national independence: less than one generation after power was devolved from London to Lilongwe, Lusaka and Harare it has been largely handed back to Washington, London and Brussels - for this is what donor dependence means.

Instead, this younger generation speaks the liberal canon - of the absolute necessity of the rule of law, of judicial independence, of maintaining standards and so on. And despite the universal detestation of ESAP, there is no wish to go back to the days of state direction of the economy. There is none of the suffocating concern to stay within the bounds of political correctness that so handicaps political discussion in South Africa.

To my interlocutors South Africa represented modernity and progress. It was with a mixture of sadness and elation that I found myself replying that it was actually they, the ones who had been through the fire and emerged on the other side, who were the more advanced.