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Disqualification of candidates in election
I was shocked to learn that 104 candidates were disqualified in the forthcoming elections. I was even more shocked to learn that the reason for disqualification was their refusal to declare their ethnic identity. Surely these are the heroes of the Mauritian future and the makers of a secular identity. I salute them.
I refer readers to my interview of February 2008 with the Mauritius Times in which I claimed that Mauritius “has a poor reputation for shelving the findings of its own commissions.” For example, Albie Sachs’ report on electoral reform quickly became a dead letter. Now that dead letter should be brought back to life. I have studied Justice Sachs’ report carefully, corresponded with him, and now again in the wake of this disturbing news I have read it. I believe it to be an impeccably reasoned and progressive document, well suited to being publicly aired once more. There is, of course, no mention of candidates having to declare their ethnicity. There is a lot of discussion of how to reduce the atavistic domination of men (Mauritius has the poorest sex ratios of MPs in SADC).
I hope the Mauritius Times can find some place to reproduce the findings of the Sachs’ report in forthcoming days.
Professor Robert Shell
University of the Western Cape
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Don’t Cry, Beloved Country; Rejoice
Talk of the “Illovo deal” and of “la couleur de ma peau” in this electoral period, with the hints of our country’s relations with South Africa that they evoke, have spurred me to connect the dots of my very eloquent personal experience. The distinct and coherent imagery that emerges holds important lessons for us.
When the MMM appeared to embody hope
As late as February 1991, when the Association of African Central Banks held its second Joint AACB/MF/WB/UNCTAD Conference in Gaborone (and possibly even later than that), I had been an ardent supporter of the MMM and of Bérenger. On the margins of that Conference, I had a memorable three-way conversation with one of Oxford University’s experts in Debt Management and with a highly-placed lady (possibly a lawyer with the Central Bank of Botswana: it is unfortunate that I have to mention, for the sake of clarity, that she was Black) who was quite active in the Conference and was a zealous anti-apartheid sympathizer. The conversation naturally turned to the momentous changes that were taking place in Southern Africa, and the choice of economic development strategy that a post-apartheid South Africa would take.
While I was enthusiastic about a Lance Taylor-type of “structuralist economics” development plan, most economists felt that the only viable choice lay between the neo-classical “Washington Consensus” approach and the neo-Keynesian approach that some of the more self-confident professionals of the Bretton Woods institutions were prepared to defend in front of their boards. I mentioned the case of Mauritius. I put forward my assessment that, even if the programme on which the MMM had been voted into power in 1982 had had “structuralist” dimensions and that Bérenger had, prior to 1982, been branded a “commie” by the news-bulletin Africa Confidential, the latter, unlike Joe Slovo of the South African Communist Party (SACP), was committed to a market-friendly development path. The lady-lawyer thereupon got extremely angry with me, and asked harshly “What’s wrong with Slovo?”, evidently playing up to the White (again, this fact has to be noted for the sake of clarity) expert from Oxford that, anti-apartheid Black activists in Southern Africa are colour-blind. I responded that what I had hesitations about was Slovo’s and the SACP’s communist, state-controlled economic-development orientation, but both the lady and the Oxford expert were silently but unmistakably congratulating themselves in having caught a “racist Asian” with his pants down!
Silly bluster and connecting the dots
Of course, one dismisses these types of silly bluster out of hand. One dismisses them, until other similar incidents come up and a nasty image emerges.
I have been connecting the dots during the past few days as I followed Paul Bérenger’s contortions about political alliances, his kangaroo-like dances whether he will position his political party/personal-support-club on the extreme left, the moderate left, the centre, the right or even the extreme right. The picture that was starting to emerge grew more distinct as the unfortunate event about Eugene Terre’Blanche in South Africa occurred and Bérenger, instead of toning down his language to annul any congruence that ill-intentioned people might wish to make, chose to play up tensions with reference to the “couleur de ma peau”. The narrative appears inescapable to me, in retrospect, now, that my two interlocutors had, back in 1991, perversely misrepresented, in their distorted minds, my opinion about Slovo in South Africa being unlike Bérenger in Mauritius, into a false interpretation that I was an “Asian anti-White racist”.
And, in Mauritius right now, this is again what Paul Bérenger is trying to do: misrepresent the choice of values that guide society, the choice of economic model that underpins the short and medium-term development path of the country as an Asian anti-White agenda.
All this would not matter at all except for the deadly-serious facts that what has transpired in South Africa during the past twenty years, and what lies ahead for Mauritius during the next ten years will have serious consequences for the material, mental and spiritual welfare of the population.
Choices – In South Africa
In South Africa under the presidential mandate of Mandela, the “structuralist” model proposed by Lance Taylor as Consultant to the Government of South Africa was to underpin the Reconstruction and Development Programme that was subsequently implemented during the period 1994-48. When Mbeki succeeded Mandela, a shift to a more centrist economic development model, the GEAR – Growth, Employment And Reconstruction — was effected, underpinned by a Jeffrey Sachs-inspired analysis congruent with the Washington Consensus mantra. That elite-focused economic orientation choice, coupled with a vacuous and overly-ambitious African Renaissance mirage centered on a deceptive African Peer Review Mechanism process, added to tragically inevitable tendencies towards corruption to culminate in the Pholokwane debacle for the ANC old guard. The flawed new President Jacob Zuma is now at the helm and the dangerously-populist Julius Malema is rocking the boat, helped in that by extreme right wingers who cannot seem to understand that the effective way to counter Malema is to emphasize moderation and accommodation.
Hard-earned and undiluted hope – in Mauritius
But there is another important part to the connected-dots image that I mentioned above. I have never liked the paternalistic caricature that Alan Paton draws, in his book “Cry the Beloved Country” of the main character of his novel, the Priest Kumalo, his sister Gertrude and his son Absalom as victims of an apartheid system which can be corrected with any chance of success only by the son of his White neighbour Jarvis, and that without having to suffer any pain of redemption. Paton’s vision of the future of Blacks in South Africa is one of their being raised as the children of Gertrude having turned into a prostitute, and Absalom having turned into criminal who is rescued from prison only by Jarvis’ son. With such an inheritance, there might be reason to say “Cry the Beloved Country”.
In Mauritius, which Gandhi visited on his way back to India, and that in the company of Dr Yusuf Dadoo, and where he gave a soul-elevating lecture to his audience at a historic gathering at the Taher Baagh, we have the memory of the sacrifices that our forbears silently consented to encourage us to raise our heads high. In Mauritius, we can hold our heads high and take the helm of the vessel of our country, steering it to face the rough waves of the high seas with confidence, sure that we will reach safe harbour. And we can tell all aboard, irrespective of skin colour or whatever other superficial attribute they may have, “Don’t Cry, Beloved Country: Rejoice”.
SM Malleck Amode