How Socialism Reshaped Africa

Nyerere’s Follies

Now, in the wisdom of old age, he has changed totally.  Tanzanians, he now opines, “should not believe that a one-party state is God’s wish.”  One party “has the tendency of stumbling.  It has the habit of wronging the people.”  He should know.  His socialist follies spelt disaster for millions of his people.  His juvenile ideas of “scientific socialism” led Tanzania to economic catastrophe, chronic corruption, a ruined agricultural system and entrenchment of privilege by the political elite.

With the help of the IMF Nyerere’s successor, President Ali Hassan Mwinyi, is now attempting to pioneer a far-reaching Economic Recovery Programme, so far with little relief to the exhausted economy.  Like so many other East European and African nations, Tanzania is finding how hard it is to recover from Marxian bungling.


Another of socialism’s total economic and human failures, a society which has been imploding for years.  In 1964, less than three decades ago, conditions for development there were as bright as in SA.  When Kenneth Kaunda took over, Zambia was one of Africa’s richest states and the world’s main supplier of copper.  In 1973 the weak-minded Kaunda, a man variously given to bursting into song, tears and rage at public gatherings – yet still described by the US State Department as “one of Africa’s outstanding statesmen” – decided to adopt old East Bloc systems for his own country.

After outlawing all political opposition, he embarked on a policy of nationalisation of mining companies, banks, land and major business houses.  Far from being criticised for this, KK’s much-lauded but economically incomprehensible system of “humanist socialism” was presented as a “shining example” to SA.  So began the long descent into penury, till today Zambia is one of Africa’s poorest and most indebted nations.  Lusaka’s crippling debt of US$7,2 billion is probably the world’s biggest when measured against size of population.

Overall, Zambia is a disaster story, epitomising everything that is wrong with Africa, including gross managerial incompetence, a chronic inability to plan ahead, a total and absolute ignorance of economic and financial reality.  In a country of fertile farmland and extensive natural resources, food riots are the order of the day.  Exasperated by Kaunda’s pitifully inept performance, Western diplomats describe him as “an essentially vain man who appears to prefer being driven around foreign capitals in Mercedes cars to tackling his own country’s considerable problems.”