Mboweni fixated on two countries

Mboweni fixated on two countries

In recent days, Lesotho and Rwanda, both tiny African countries located in Southern Africa and East Africa respectively, have generated heated debates in South Africa.

At the centre of these debates is none other than South Africa’s own Minister of Finance Tito Mboweni - a very influential member of the Cabinet with strong views on a wide range of issues beyond his portfolio.

Apart from managing the national finances as assigned by President Cyril Ramaphosa, Mboweni has endlessly generated intriguing news headlines in areas such as tinned fish recipes, the type of shoes he wears, performance in the bedroom. In short, he has indeed demonstrated the boldness to “tread where angels fear”.

For different reasons, Lesotho and Rwanda are perhaps the minister’s favourite topics. A question might arise as to whether the minister’s expressed views on these countries undermine his fellow Cabinet ministers in charge of matters concerning external affairs? The other question that requires answers is whether the minister is failing to separate personal experiences and feelings from matters of the state.

When it comes to matters concerning Lesotho and Rwanda as expressed by the minister, one is afraid to state categorically that he fails dismally to reconcile his personal experiences and feelings from national and continental agendas. On Lesotho the minister’s view expressed recently is shy of openly calling for the unification of Lesotho into South Africa or the southern Africa region.

This view is not anything new. It has been advanced by both Basotho people and scholars. It is also a view that one personally favours to resolve Lesotho’s perennial economic and political crises.

However, it is politically inappropriate for a Cabinet minister to openly express his personal views outside government policy.

Basotho people ought to deliberate independently whether they go for unification with South Africa or the southern Africa region. The minister appears ahead of both Basotho people, his own government, SADC and the AU.

These utterances on Lesotho have a potential to undermine South Africa’s future mediation efforts and economic interests in that country. South Africa relies heavily on Lesotho’s water. The unification option favoured by the minister might appear attractive but it has its own limitation. Lesotho is not the only failing state in the region.

What about Zimbabwe or Malawi? South Africa must work closely with neighbours to come up with better foreign policy options than simply swallowing poorly governed neighbouring countries.

This brings us to Rwanda, another favourite country of our minister. Unlike Lesotho, Rwanda is a different country that is increasingly showing remarkable resilience and recovery after one of the 20th century’s deadliest genocides. 

Mboweni, like many observers of Rwanda’s “economic miracle”, is fascinated by the sheer foresight of the Rwandan people to develop from a low base in a region marred by state collapse, as is the case in DRC. There are indeed endless good stories from Rwanda that one cannot dismiss. Equally, it is important to state that Rwanda is run by a benevolent dictator who is a bosom friend of our minister of finance. This is also a leader who openly undermines South Africa’s sovereignty by deploying his murderous operatives to kill his political opponents on our shores.

(President Paul) Kagame has also undermined South Africa’s interest in the DRC. Mboweni’s tweets ought to comprehensively grasp these dynamics in both Lesotho and Rwanda. Perhaps he should consult his counterparts to fully understand the country’s positions in Lesotho and Rwanda before he presses 140 character tweets expressing complex matters of foreign policy.

* Monyae is the director of Africa-China Studies at the University of Johannesburg.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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