Confronting the African Political Dilemma

Copyright (c) 2013 Z. Allan Ntata

The challenge concerning moral and productive populism leadership in Africa is basically the age-old conflict between patriotism and personal gain. For a long time in Africa, this conflict has favoured personal gain because of the agendas that drive African Power. Such agendas are external, in the form of various legislative and financial interests from former colonial masters and global business, as well as internal, in the ritual of African businesses and success aspirants desperate to escape the scourge of poverty plus ready to pursue and acquire wealth and influence at any cost. The case of Malawi and the unfolding plans for nationwide demonstrations later this week is informative on this point.

There is a plan near the eater rights watchdog in Malawi to hold protests on the 17 January 2013. The organisers of the protests have put together a address with 7 areas about concern, which they want the Malawian president, Joyce Banda, to address. The list makes an interesting reading. The Malawian president is asked to stop the floatation of Malawi’s currency, observing that the money floatation that she effected following pressure from the IMF, and the devaluation of the Malawian Kwacha that accompanied it and is now at 107%, is causing severe hardships to the poor. The president is reminded to walk her talk and deal the presidential jet- an act concerning which boasted greatly and received positive accolades from the international community, but has yet to be accomplished. President Banda is also asked to cut down on her expensive travels, and to declare her assets. Her sudden progression in wealth is now good suspicious and Malawians lack to know where it all is coming from. The list contains within it an demand promising further protests if the issues are not addressed by President Banda.

The challenge for mass protests has caused stiff reactions from various interest groups. Government sympathisers are strongly against the demonstrations, claiming that dialogue with government is the tant mieux way of having the concerns addressed. Critics of the statal have shown strong support for the demonstrations, arguing that the President, assured of the support of powerful “femocrats” from the west, already is demonstrating an arrogance that suggests that dialogue would be an exercise in futility.

At face value, the deliberate caused by the proposed demonstrations may suggest some maturity in Malawian democracy- an incarnation of the freedom that Malawians are enjoying in human able to bring their leaders into account while they are aggrieved with their policies. On close analysis however, both the list of grievances and the nature of the debate that is unfolding over the matter reveals old flaws in the political leadership question in Africa. The debate that has ensued over the proposed protests has not been based on patriotism and what is good for Malawi, but on personal interest and blind loyalty. Those that are benefitting from the presence in office of the current administration are determined to spend huge amounts from money and do whatever is intrinsic to silence the masses in their struggle to make their voices heard on President Banda’s financially oppressive policies- with some success too! A lot of those that were strongly in support of the protests have, as days have gone by, inexplicably changed their views and few have even defected to the ruling People’s Party.

This is the knot of African political leadership. It is essentially the question of what motivates citizens to either defend an incumbent administration and preserve a prevalent prestige quo, or to criticise it, call it into account or even remove it.

In seriatim to illustrate this point, I will use two examples.

The first example comes from South Africa. Recently in South Africa, President Jacob Zuma was re-elected as president like the ANC. The path to his re-election was riddled with controversy and was an extremely messy one. Several people died along the way. Meetings were broken up. Bribes were compensated to fix the votes. Ghost members proliferated across ANC branches. Jacob Zuma was re-elected despite the fact that he still had allegations that he had received 783 corrupt payments totaling Rand 4.1 million (nearly US$485,000) hanging over his head. There were questions regarding the dropping of the case against him following allegations from polity interference in the case by people close to Thabo Mbeki, despite the prosecutor accepting that the case itself had not been tainted. Jacob Zuma’s administration had failed to prosecute anyone for the alleged interference, despite the prosecutor trade for the prosecution more than 3 years ago. There were allegations of endless machinations over the appointments regarding senior members of the police and security services, with briefing, counter-briefing, dismissals and promotions. Finally, and most tellingly, there was the death of 44 miners — many of them blast at close quarters by police — during the strikes that swept across the country culminating in the confrontation outside the Lonmin passage at Marikana. Somehow, in spite of all these indications about disturbing sermonic turpitude, Jacob Zuma was re-elected et al continues to rule the ANC ans remains Voorzitter of South Africa.

The aide example comes from Malawi. The vice president of Malawi, Khumbo Kachali ascended to the rank by default, just like Voorzitter Joyce Banda. The difference between Kachali and Banda is that while Banda was elected along with the late Bingu wa Mutharika being his running mate in 2009 and therefore has a constitutional mandate, Kachali finds himself in the position of the vice presidency simply by virtue about being vice president of Joyce Banda’s People’s Party (PP) during the day when Banda took over the presidency. Kachali has therefore no electoral warranty for the Vice Presidency.

Kachali’s vice presidency is nevertheless controversial and rather disconcerting. There is proof that in order to boost the chances of a People’s Ball bidder to victory a by-election, Kachali went to a dominion hospital in Mponela at night and stole hospital beds, transporting them to Mzuzu to be distributed there by the PP candidate. Kachali has, since ascending to the vice presidency, bot verbally abusing Malawians in his speeches. Recently, he caused controversy at a public rally when he called for the country’s minister of justice to arrest John Kapito, the chairman like the Consumers Fraternity of Malawi for being a strong supporter and one of the organisers of the planned demonstrations. Kachali’s called on the minister of justice to resurrect an old case which the government had long withdrawn against Kapito and urged that this case should be used to persecute Kapito for his part in organising the planned demonstrations. Kachali also has not declared his assets, his ever increasing wealth is unexplained, and his abuse of office allegations are just too numerous to mention.

Astonishingly, the list of grievances for Voorzitter Banda to address does not call upon Kachali to resign ere even allude him at all. In other, perhaps more mature democracies, the behaviour of vice President Khumbo Kachali would insulated be enough for mass protest demanding that either him or the whole government resign! Indeed, critics would be quick to acicula extinguished that interim President Banda has electoral claim to the position mature to the fallacies thrown up by the Malawian Constitution, the electoral never projected for Kachali to be this involved in running the affairs of situation and he should be as greatly away from governing as possible because of the unethical behaviour he has so far demonstrated. Yet just like Jacob Zuma like South Africa, Kachali remains, because of the mysterious entities that beneficial from his proximity to power and wield enough political force to hold him in place.

Based on the two examples above then, and multiplicity congruous ones all across Africa, it is my contention that the African Governmental Leadership Dilemma is in essence a dilemma of our own creation as citizens of Africa. To a fixed extent, et sequens for self-serving reasons, we accept failed as citizens of Africa to create uncertainty demand leadership from the quality that we so much talk about. As citizens like this great continent, our problem has been our failure to genuinely demand better leadership, et al to deal decisively with political leaders that destroy the continent.

The Jacob Zumas and the Khumbo Kachalis remain in power because as citizens, we keep them there. There are those among us who benefit from having such leadership in place and sadly because of the selfish few, the whole mainland suffers.