November 22nd, 2017

Sir,

It’s been a dizzying week for Zimbabwe. Not since the country’s independence in April, 1980 has Zimbabwe been all over the news, all over the world as in the past two weeks. Back in 1980, hope about that young country’s prospects filled the world’s airwaves, because the cause of freedom and democracy had triumphed over the evil of colonialism and racism.

On Saturday, November 18 and 21, 2017, the world again witnessed Zimbabweans celebrating another triumph, this time over dictatorship and the hope that perhaps a path would be found to triumph over repression and economic and social degradation. For 37 years now, Zimbabweans have seen their lives deteriorate on every front: human rights violations, rigged elections, economic mismanagement and corruption, broken education and health systems and a decayed infrastructure. When they attempted to use constitutional means to right these wrongs through the electoral process, they were consistently denied this avenue by a government that thwarted their choices of new leaders. You were part of this government for all 37 years.

But, perhaps because you were in this government for all those years, you may actually be in a position to make the necessary changes to past failed policies and a failed approach to governing. Because you know the ins and outs of what went wrong with a government in which you were a central figure, you may actually have specific ideas on how to get Zimbabwe out of this morass, now that you are the man in charge of the governing ZANU-PF party and the government.

To move the country forward, there are certain basic things that must be done and followed. Success depends on them. The first is adherence to the rule of law. It is common knowledge the world over that in Zimbabwe, government and its agencies acted with impunity because they were not accountable to written rules of conduct. Opposition politicians and their political parties within Zimbabwe were thrown in jail or actually murdered for their political beliefs. Many are alive and are witness to this. And individual Zimbabweans who had their rights violated without redress and watched government officials acting without accountability can also tell jaw dropping stories about their treatment in an environment where there is the absence of the rule of law. You will need, Sir, to demonstrate from the beginning that Zimbabwe is a country of laws and that no citizens are above it. You can start by realigning Zimbabwe’s statutes with its new constitution, something which Robert Mugabe and his government did not do or deliberately neglected to do in the past 5 years. And which you, as a recent former Justice Minister also neglected to do. This will be crucial, for Zimbabweans and the rest of the world need to be confident that change is indeed coming to the country. And yes, the common refrain by you and others that “party and government” are above everything must be replaced by a new slogan extolling the virtues of the rule of law. Surely, as someone who has spent the last three weeks in hiding, trying to escape Mugabe’s wrath, you must now appreciate how crucial the rule of law is to all Zimbabweans.

Secondly, you should take the lead in ensuring that the next elections in Zimbabwe are free and fair and peaceful. There can be no stability in that country if Zimbabweans continue to be denied their choices of who will lead them over a given period of time under their constitution. Let’s face it. You have been accused in the past of taking the lead in suppressing voters from exercising their rights, the 2008 elections being a documented glaring example of this, among many other such past instances. It will take your bringing all stakeholders in the political arena to a discussion and agree on how the elections will be conducted, including objective and nonpartisan mechanisms for monitoring the elections to ensure their integrity. Anything less will be viewed by Zimbabweans as a continuation of the fraudulent practices that have been the hallmark of Zimbabwe’s electoral process for the past 37 years.

Thirdly, my advice to you would be to call a meeting or series of meetings with all Zimbabwe’s political and civic leaders and engage them in a discussion on how to make a fresh start for Zimbabwe. For you to succeed, you will need to hear what they have to say about how to move the country forward from now on. They, in turn, will need to hear from you about your plans for the country’s future. Only by talking to each other, away from your political galleries, will you as Zimbabwe’s political class arrive at an understanding of what it will take to revive the country. Many people have suggested that you call on parties to come together and form a transitional power sharing coalition government to prepare the country for the next phase of its history, including the next elections. I too endorse this approach. And the American civil rights leader, the Reverend Jesse Jackson said it well on November 21, 2017, as he reacted to Mugabe’s resignation: “It is healing time. It is unity time. It is time to go forward in peace and rebuild Zimbabwe for the better.”

I have had discussions with individuals who know you and who think that you have the potential to bring Zimbabwe out of its self-inflicted quagmire. They cite your ability to evolve and incorporate new ideas into your thinking, for example, in sound economic policies based on your success in business ventures, and in coming out against the death penalty as something central to your acceptance of the Christian faith. Zimbabwe certainly needs a leader who will incorporate new thinking as it faces the future. A man whom you admire, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, once described Zimbabwe as the jewel of Africa. Think of your new and awesome responsibility as bringing that jewel back to its shining state.

November 15th, 2017

All pretense, actually the lie that Zimbabwe is a democratic country, one observing its constitution and laws, was exposed on November 14, 2017. Zimbabwe’s soldiers, reacted to a long standing squabble within the governing party, the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, (ZANU-PF) by using state instruments to choose sides in that squabble. ZANU-PF has for the past few years been in the process of realigning itself in anticipation of 93 year old President Robert Mugabe’s incapacitation and/or death. The soldiers did not like the individuals who were getting the upper hand in that fight and decided to, as they claimed, target criminals around Mugabe who were committing crimes that “are causing social and economic suffering in the country in order to bring them to justice.” We hear from our sources within the country that some members of Mugabe’s cabinet have been arrested, even though Mugabe himself is confined to his private residence. The country’s broadcasting apparatus has been taken over by the military, and as a military spokesperson said on television, “As soon as we have accomplished our mission we expect that the situation will return to normalcy.” All of this, just to restore, ostensibly, the individuals within the governing party that the soldiers liked, who were removed from power in a fight within their own party!

In a democratic country, the following questions would have been asked: “By what authority have you taken over state institutions so you can arrest people and or demote government officials? Where is the order from the attorney general or prosecutor general as per Zimbabwe’s constitution that empowered you to do this? Who and when is anyone or everybody that you say you will bring to justice be put on trial for whatever offenses you have not yet revealed?

Only in a democracy would such ‘naïve’ questions be relevant. Zimbabwe is not and never was one. Mugabe and his henchmen, regardless of whether they are now in the ascendency, arrested, fired or about to be reinstalled back into office by the soldiers, have all been about their party remaining in power so that they can protect their ill-gotten wealth. For 37 years, ZANU-PF under Mugabe and all the people and soldiers beneath him, who are now at each other’s throats, rigged elections, closed all normal political discourse, killed opposition activists, violated the constitution with impunity and arbitrary arrests, and made Zimbabweans destitute by ruining a functioning economy to upwards of 95% unemployment.

They are those suggesting that with Mugabe ‘out of the way’, Zimbabweans may come to some understanding among themselves and chart a different course from now on. One would hope so. But I have my serious doubts. ZANU-PF has never been about democracy except as led and defined by them and their narrow interests. Back in 1980 when Mugabe came to power, he stated openly that those who had not fought with him in the liberation struggle would never be allowed power in Zimbabwe. He has stayed true to his word. Does anyone really believe that his party with or without him will change from this goal?

There was hope from some quarters that with the coming 2018 national elections, Zimbabweans would vote in such large numbers to remove the 94 year old that the results would be difficult to contest. Now with his ‘younger’ lieutenants taking over, regardless of which side in their internal fight, expect the usual: election rigging, preceded by violent suppression of the opposition and a military ready and willing to use extra constitutional means to maintain their power and privilege. An opposition politician said today that the time had come for thorough reflection, national vision and leadership, and strategy. He urged all political parties in the country to “work together to reconstruct our country from the ashes.” I urge ZANU-PF to reflect on this. They are the ones that must look straight into that mirror.

“Counting Our Blessings” is the title of an article by Eddie Cross, a member of Zimbabwe’s parliament. Despite all the problems that unfortunate country is currently facing, he paints a positive picture of a nation whose citizens are certainly capable of climbing out of the morass and achieving great things, once they unshackle themselves of the current incompetent and corrupt leadership.  Says Mr. Cross:

How do we do it? In the middle of a political, economic and social crisis we not only keep standing, but we deliver superb services on very little and our kids do well wherever they go in the world. Of course, in many areas we are a disaster, unemployment at 90 per cent of all adults, very poor standards at government schools and lousy, overcrowded State controlled hospitals. But wherever you go you will find friendly staff who will go the second mile for you. I paid my telephone account this morning – clean post office, shiny floors, two pleasant and helpful ladies at the desk, 2 minutes and I was out the door. I know all about the negatives – the corruption, the road blocks, poor service in the Civil Service, nightmare conditions at the borders, but there are so many positives if you look for them. 

Change will be coming soon to Zimbabwe, once the jewel of Africa, as Tanzania’s  Julius Nyerere described it in 1981. Mr. Cross is right. Zimbabweans will once again demonstrate that they are deserving of the world’s goodwill and investment that they once enjoyed. The article first appeared on his website: http://www.eddiecross.africanherd.com on September 8, 2017.

 

Any observer of the current political situation in Zimbabwe cannot help but be discouraged. What’s happening there does not augur well for that country’s future. Its current president, Robert Mugabe, is a doddering 93 year old, frequently out of the country for medical attention, and presiding over what by any definition is a failed state or close to it. Zimbabwe has a deteriorating economy without money to even pay its civil servants or government services, a crumbling, some have said rotting infrastructure and disintegrating health care, education and social service systems. What’s worse is that his lieutenants in government are at open war with each other, trying to gain advantage as they wait for this man to ‘depart.’ A recipe for civil conflict.

One would think that Zimbawe’s opposition political parties would be strategic in their planning by uniting to topple this incompetent and corrupt regime at the next election. If there was a time when Mugabe and his ruling party were at a major disadvantage it is now, when they are hopelessly divided among themselves and could be induced into a realignment of that country’s political make up. Instead, the opposition has itself splintered into what an observer has described as “ineffective fiefdoms that have no chance of taking on the ruling party.” Part of the recipe for civil conflict.

Here is what has happened. In the early 2000s, a new nationwide organization, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), became a potent force in Zimbabwe’s politics and actually succeeded in ‘defeating’ Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) in two elections. I put the word defeating in quotation marks because Mugabe not only rigged the vote in those two elections but actually overturned the results in the 2008 election, using violence to win a second round, which the opposition chose to boycott. Yet, instead of maintaining a united front against Mugabe, the MDC splintered into at least 5 organizations, three of them using the same name. So, when another election was held in 2013, Mugabe used the same tactics to cheat, divide and conquer and is still in power.

Recently, Mugabe’s own governing party splintered as well, with several top lieutenants of the President being unceremoniously removed from office and the party. They too formed their own political party and were regarded by observers as a potentially effective unit in a united opposition to Mugabe. They had enough of a following within the ruling party which they could bring along into opposition politics. But they too have splintered within this new party and are instead quibbling over who has rights to the name of the party. Like their MDC counterparts, they concentrate on name calling and quarrels among themselves while their political target sits smugly.

Mugabe has exploited disunity and disorganization in opposition ranks to cheat his way into maintaining power for over 35 years. He may yet do that for a few more years, even when he is dead, with the followers he currently has, using tactics that they have perfected over time. And all this will happen because the opposition is not galvanized into a united front with an effective strategy that ordinary Zimbabweans would be willing to risk their lives to follow. There are examples in sub-Saharan Africa, of opposition parties uniting and organizing to dislodge incompetent old regimes, and doing this without violence: in Malawi to remove another 93 year old dictator, Kamuzu Banda; in Zambia, to end a government whose economic incompetence for over 30 years had brought that country to its knees; and, in Kenya where Daniel arap Moi was forced to face reality.

In Zimbabwe, the ordinary people’s desire for a political transformation is being frustrated because the opposition doesn’t seem to get a simple truism: there is strength in unity. For that they are part of the problem not the solution.

It is time for new, younger and braver men and women to lead the struggle for democracy in Zimbabwe. People in that country demand it and if it is forthcoming the international community will once again lend its full support.

January 18th, 2017

Ghana/Gambia

There have been positive and negative things going on in some parts of Africa lately, vis-à-vis prospects for democracy in that continent. I suppose like any other part of the world, there are ups and downs, and we’ve just got to live with it. I am thinking about Ghana and the Gambia as examples. Ghana held elections. The incumbent lost fairly and ceded power according to the constitution and rules of conduct that the country had agreed upon. Impressive!!!

So, why am I applauding something that should be as normal and regular as day and night? That’s because in the Gambia, also in West Africa, the President there decided that he would ignore the results of a free and fair election and keep himself in power. And that is after he had actually promised that he would concede defeat when the electoral commission announced the results officially. Hopefully, the heads of government of Gambia’s neighbors (who have been talking to him) will put pressure on him to leave peacefully when his term expires and while he still can. Now we hear that even some of his cabinet ministers are fleeing the country; no doubt having caught wind of approaching trouble, probably violence of some kind. You would think he would know better. He came to power after a coup, and there have been several coup attempts in his 22 year rule. And it looks like Gambia’s neighbors, with Nigeria and Senegal taking the lead, are determined to remove him from office one way or another. A potentially violent but unnecessary period is coming to a country that could have avoided it. But if the example of Ghana, and indeed of Nigeria and Senegal previously, is to become the norm in Africa, then the tanks must roll into the Gambia.

South Africa

I am concerned about South Africa. For those of us closely watching political activities in some of these countries, South Africa’s hard won democracy is being tarnished. Proceedings in parliament are becoming a circus, with some on the left, like the Economic Freedom Front, attempting to disrupt serious discussions by antics close to what I consider anarchic. I recall one such incident in which they carried on about a parliamentarian from the governing African National Congress (ANC) who was fast asleep during official proceedings. They had to be removed from the chamber for this disruptive behavior when everybody should have been seriously involved in the debates on some important issues of state. Perhaps these antics are their way of getting attention but this kind of immaturity is a slippery slope to future undemocratic behavior. Likewise, the opposition parties from the right (the Democratic Alliance for example) have not done themselves a favor by gratuitous insults that are sometimes hurled at the country’s President. The South African parliament is not alone in exhibiting this kind of behavior. It happens everywhere and can be viewed as one more aspect of a healthy democracy, but South Africa’s institutions are young and fragile. Its political practitioners need to tread carefully; the one thing that South Africa has going for it is that in 20+ years of democracy, its leaders have set the tone for the rest of the continent by their maturity in conducting the country’s business. It can be lost just as easily and just as quickly.

And this is not to excuse the ruling ANC in some of my concerns. Corruption, if not endemic, is a major problem. There are entirely too many individuals going through the legal system for bad behavior. And almost all of them seem to have ties with the ruling party. Incompetence in administering affairs of state is also raising its ugly head, with the country changing Finance Ministers, for example, three times in three weeks!

Also, South Africa’s economy seems to doing badly. One analysis says that the country’s latest data were worse than economists were expecting, and now analysts are raising questions about South Africa’s long-term outlook. I especially found this statement to be most troubling:

“The key risk in South Africa is not an acute crisis, but a period of stagnation that could strain the country’s political and economic institutions to the breaking point.”  In two words: not good. (http://www.businessinsider.com/south-africa-has-a-lot-of-problems-2016-2)

All these are tell-tale signs of the march to the bottom that has been typical of many countries in Africa. Let’s hope that South Africa learned something from the histories of its northern neighbors many of whom squandered the promise of a brighter future by incompetence, corruption and lack of vision.

This is actually painful to say. I spent the 1970s and 80s in the struggle against apartheid, specifically in support of the ANC. And I believe that the ANC did a magnificent job guiding the country from its apartheid past into a functioning democracy. But it is time for a political realignment in the country. The best ideas on how to move the country forward must now take precedent and not the history of an organization, despite its glorious revolutionary past. Changing leaders at the top but doing the same thing over and over again will not save South Africa. As currently constituted, the ANC must be removed from office at the next election.

February 25th, 2016

We have come to look at free and fair elections in Africa as a standard for measuring how democracy is setting in for many countries on that continent. Free and fair elections are indeed the best place, the first place actually, to assess whether or not a country is heading in the right direction towards a democratic dispensation. But I argue that this is not the only measure by which to judge whether a country is actually a functioning democracy. The question we should be asking is “What happens between one ‘free and fair election’ and the next one?”

If by free and fair elections we mean that the voters in any given country have the final say on who is going to govern them over a given period, then we should also be giving those same voters the final say on how, in practice, they will be governed in that given period. People find a stake in institutions when they have a say in how those institutions make decisions on their behalf. Only when people are empowered to demand and shape better policies, express grievances, seek justice and hold leaders accountable can we say that free and fair processes of choosing a country’s leadership reflect their democratic wishes. In other words, a true measure of democracy is how people demand and receive better policies from those they have chosen as their governors.

In other words, democracy demands constant and consistent participation, not in casting a ballot every five years but in people at every level of society becoming involved in decisions that affect their lives, and doing this on an ongoing basis. This means more than just a free press reporting on what is going on and in what decisions are being taken by a government. It means more than politicians and the ruling class arguing over which direction to take on any and many available options for any given issue or policy. It means direct involvement by the very people that elected the governors. I argue that in many African countries there does not exist a well-organized and vibrant civic society that actually mobilizes ordinary citizens to, for example, have direct input into how a particular piece of legislation and its accompanying regulation will be debated, drafted and implemented. Not many members of a national or local legislature actually hear from their voters on how they should vote on a particular bill coming up for debate. Not many bureaucrats actually hear from ordinary citizens in any given district about how a project will be implemented in that area. And when the citizens actually make their views known, do those same bureaucrats take citizen input seriously? Do the bureaucrats even contemplate negative consequences for not listening to those who would be affected by their actions? I have personally waited for hours on end in long lines for service at government offices in many an African country, when people supposed to be providing the service were inside on personal cell phones or endless tea breaks. And any visitor to any part of Africa will tell you of horror stories about projects implemented without input from the affected locals, leading to major disasters, including famine or illness.

I am arguing here for a ‘quality democracy’, one which requires responsiveness of elected officials to the needs and concerns of those they govern; a democracy where the governed have the means to access and/or influence the decision makers and where decision makers are fully aware of the consequences of not responding in one form or another to the concerns of the governed. The stress here is on citizen access and ability to provide input and not necessarily on results. Not all the interests of all members of a given society can be accommodated at any one time. But knowing that you, as a citizen and a voter have been heard is crucial because it gives you a stake in a system. And as a decision maker or leader, knowing that you have been seen as listening to all view points before making a final decision gives you legitimacy. And the confidence to act accordingly.

This, in my opinion, is especially central in promoting economic development, yet it is lacking in many parts of Africa. Where it exists the positive results are obvious. In Botswana, for example, there exists a traditional system of governance called the Kogtla. It combines the country’s established democratic system with a process of public meetings or community councils where decisions are always arrived at by consensus. Anyone at a meeting is allowed to speak, and no one may interrupt while someone is “having their say”. This consensus is then applied to decisions and actions taken at government level throughout the country. It can be argued that Botswana has achieved a relatively good development performance in the 50 years of independence primarily because its democracy accommodates continuous input from the citizens on all matters affecting their well-being.

Where such an organic system does not exist, civic organizations can fill the void. These institutions have done a yeoman’s job in Africa in promoting human rights and democracy and exposing abuses of every kind. They can do more, especially by being the avenue for citizens input in a country’s governance because active participation of citizens in governance promotes transparency and accountability. Civic organizations in Africa should be the extra constitutional ‘other’ branch of government, much as the press does in western democracies. And they alone would have the backing of their international counterparts in expanding this crucial role as promoters of good governance. Providing them with additional funding and support for this essential task is also of utmost necessity.

January 19th, 2016

In the past few years, Africa has witnessed tremendous strides toward democratic dispensations and good governance. We have seen incumbent presidents lose free and fair elections and concede defeat. In Nigeria Goodluck Jonathan, the incumbent conceded to Mohamed Buhari, the winner, and was proud to “have kept my word” that the elections there would be free and fair. In Namibia, Mozambique and Tanzania there have been successive free and fair elections, with term limited incumbents boasting that they were following their constitutions by adhering to the rule of law. In Zambia, Presidents have died in office but the processes of choosing their replacements have stuck to the democratic constitutional process that the political class itself established.

In Malawi, the President who was losing the election as the votes were being counted, tried to annul the results but was foiled by an outcry from pretty much everyone involved in the country, most significantly the country’s electoral commission, which pointed out that the president – especially a competing candidate – does not have the constitutional power to summarily annul an election. The courts upheld this decision and in the end the incumbent conceded defeat.

In Cote d’Ivoire’s 2015 election, there was a generally peaceful presidential election in direct contrast to the one in 2010 where more than 3000 people died as a result of an incumbent president refusing to concede election defeat. Apparently, a combined effort by citizen election observers and civil society organizations helped lend credibility to the 2015 elections. Even in Burkina Faso there was a successful free election after civil society groups and opposition political parties became the driving force behind the popular protests to oust the previous president who planned to continue in office despite being term limited.

All of this is good news for democratic prospects on the continent. And as Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-Calif), Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on Africa, said at an Africa Policy Forum, most of the countries in Africa are functioning democracies, adding, “It’s incumbent upon all of us who care about Africa to celebrate the good news of Africa.”

But, let’s be realistic here. There are countries in Africa bucking this trend and they pose a danger to everything that has been achieved so far. What is even more troubling is that some of these countries are recent examples of the violence and carnage that resulted from political instability. Burundi is on the brink of civil war. The President there who was termed out forced through an election in which he was also a candidate. By doing so he violated an agreement brokered earlier that patched this violence prone nation together following a destructive civil conflict that ended in 2005. Since his move, the country has been marred by increasing levels of violence and a mass exodus of terrified civilians. Burundi has been embroiled in some form of violent conflict almost since it first gained independence in 1962. And the last conflict from 1993 to 2005 pitted the country along ethnic lines and cost hundreds of thousands of lives.

Burundi shares a border with Rwanda, another country whose violent history is well known. We all have painful memories of the sickening videos and pictures of the genocide in that unfortunate country. When that dark period ended, this tiny country was applauded for picking itself up from the ashes and becoming a model of rapid economic progress and political stability. Now the President there, Paul Kagame, has changed the constitution and is running for another term, a flagrant violation of a stable and forward looking constitution that he was central in developing and implementing. The controversial vote to change the constitution means that Kagame, 58, can run again in 2017 after his second mandate ends. In effect it authorizes him to stand for another term of seven years and two more after that of five each, meaning that Kagame could be in power until 2034.

There has been international condemnation of Kagame’s moves by the European Union, the US State Department, the United Nations and other bodies. But there are other African countries contemplating similar moves like Kagame’s: Democratic Republic of the Congo, Benin, Congo-Brazzaville. Others like Angola, Algeria, Chad and Uganda have already passed measures benefiting incumbents. Yet, international voices of objections of these backward steps have been rather muted.

And if you look at the countries where this is happening, all of them have had violent (yes, barbaric) pasts, where lives have been lost by the millions and where dictators like Idi Amin and Mobutu Sese Seko left untold suffering. And all of them have also experienced a period (however brief) of an environment where peace actually seemed to take hold and their citizens began to thrive. The wrong lessons seem to have been learned here.

After what happened in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as recently as the 1990s, can the African Union and the international community let that horrid past start to germinate, once more? By remaining silent or engaging in tepid responses, are we saying that we have not learned anything? And wasn’t it President Bill Clinton who said that he profoundly regretted not intervening sooner in the last Rwandan conflict? Why is international disapproval of such clear setbacks to African governance so muffled?

August 10th, 2015

By Japhet M. Zwana

He is 36 years old

He is a journalist

He is a human/ civil rights activist

He has petitioned for the resignation of President Mugabe

He has been arrested and beaten by the secret Zimbabwean security

He addressed a rally on March 8, 2015 in Zimbabwe’s capital Harare and on the following day was abducted at a barber shop by five heavily armed men.

Who is he? His name is Itai Dzamara.

The world has justifiably exhibited intense indignation at the depraved slaying of the 13 year old lion known as Cecil. There is no doubt about the level of love that Zimbabweans have for this lion as they do for the other wildlife in their country. Yet they surely must wonder: why the international furor over Cecil’s demise and not that of Dzamara?

The screaming headlines in the American press said it all. They left no doubt in the public’s mind that the media considered this a grave crime against the global fauna, with headlines like ‘Killer’, ‘Heads you lose cowardly lion hunter wont get prized kill’; ‘Murderous Safari by healer’, ‘Dr. Death’; ‘America’s most hated’; ‘Lion Shame’. Some posters read, ‘ROT IN HELL, Palmer, There is a Deep Cavity waiting for you.’

Zimbabweans have a right to be confused by all the fuss about the death of a lion. Their lives matter too. Zimbabwean farmers, teachers, students, laborers, health workers, artisans, journalists, and yes, wardens in those wildlife reserves could use a little sympathy from the international community’s outreach to Zimbabwe’s rulers by pressing them to take the necessary steps to improve their lives as well. While they fully understand the excitement over the passing of one ‘royal’ lion, their immediate concern is the multitude of problems perpetrated by their oppressive regime: economic mismanagement, unemployment, lack of civil/human rights, corruption in every sector of society, high inflation, hunger and a decrepit health system.

The international community seemed eager and ready to assist the Zimbabwean government in its efforts to locate and apprehend Dr. Palmer. Ordinary Zimbabweans would welcome the same zeal in aiding the family and friends of Itai Dzamara as they seek to determine his fate. The government of Robert Mugabe will not do it unless and until it is pressured from the outside to do so. It has been five months since Dzamara disappeared. The world community that is concerned about Cecil, whose tourism value is well known, should also be making screaming noises about people like Dzamara by converging on the altar of mercy and bring pressure to bear on Zimababwe’s leaders who have taken a country that was once Africa’s brightest promise to its deepest despair.

(July 18 is Nelson Mandela Day, a day created to honor Mandela and inspire others to carry on his efforts to “take responsibility for making the world a better place, one small step at a time.” Below is an article by Dr. Japhet Zwana contrasting Mandela’s example with that of other African leaders. Read on.)

by Japhet M. Zwana

If one looks at the gallery of the wealth of Africa’s politicians it features individuals whose call is obviously not to serve but to rob their countries. Go into any source on the internet or elsewhere and you will see staggering estimated amounts of money that represents the ill-gotten wealth of these African leaders. And when they steal they go for broke; we are talking here of hundreds of millions of dollars. Money that could feed, house, educate and provide medicines for their citizenry.

By contrast, the net worth of Nelson Mandela, was only $10 million (Celebrity Networth, 2014). It is worth noting that Mandela made most of his money via book royalties from the sale of the 1994 best seller, ‘Long Walk To Freedom’, and the rest from public speaking and endorsements. Being the consummate humanitarian that he was, he slashed his Presidential salary and donated one third of it to children’s charities in South Africa. The majority of Mandela’s wealth was placed into more than a dozen various trust funds for the family. Listen to what his longtime friend and lawyer, George Bizos, says about Mandela: ‘If anyone suggests that he is a multimillionaire, they are wrong. He is not a rich man. He has a couple of trusts for his children and grandchildren. His earnings are technically nil, other than the good will of people inside and outside South Africa who helped with the education of the children. He has always insisted that money donated should be used for building schools and hospitals.’(Euronews, 2014).

The level of kleptomania in Africa was highlighted by President Obama when he addressed about 23 African leaders attending the African Union Summit in Munyonyo, Uganda in July 2010. He said, ‘The United States will not provide a safe haven for money stolen from Africa by its corrupt.’(The Monitor, July 2010).

Frankly, Nelson Mandela set a standard that should be the envy of all African leaders. However, by all indications, a large number among them have used their political station to plunder the economic resources of their countries, leading to large scale pauperization of their subjects. Embezzlement has become a strategic modus operandi in governance. African leaders long discovered that financial muscle translated into operational political power. This framework is used to perpetuate the dominance of the ruling party or small clique surrounding the leader.  Mandela fully understood the traps of power and did not allow it to stand in the way of freedom and progress. Like Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, he was well aware of the three perennial African scourges of poverty, ignorance and disease and was dead set against tolerating corruption because it took away precious resources needed to these scourges.

The question that has often defied logic is: Why are African political leaders so drenched in opulence while their people are so poor? It is important to understand that except for certain areas, Africa is not a poor continent but rather an impoverished one. Its corrupt leaders contribute towards its economic demise. As gluttonous heads of state and their ilk amass wealth, the African people are burdened with debts and see their natural resource reserves depleted with little to show for in return.

The poor brand of African leadership is facilitated by, among others, the following:

*Every elite in a position of power use their office to build a political click by selectively allocating benefits to those who support it.

*Some detrimental elements are propped by foreign powers because they serve their interests (his master’s voice)

*The majority of the masses have yet to fully comprehend the power of their vote and the imperatives of democracy

*Longevity of rulers in power is worn as a badge of honor, ‘the will of the people’

* Citizens lack the spirit of pride in being members of a given country and therefore are unwilling to sacrifice their lives to removing these leaders

*Leaders harbor an adversarial aura towards intellectuals who are regarded as a threat to their power security. The latter then suffer from inertia.

*The African Union is a mirage. One of its objectives is to promote unity and solidarity among nations. Sadly, numbers are not strength in Africa. The 50 plus countries have succeeded in accentuating their differences more than unity

*Ethnic loyalty leads to nepotistic tendencies on the part of the powerful and privileged.

*In efforts to modernize, leaders have failed to establish African leadership folklore and this has led them to imitate Westerners with terrible results.

No one is suggesting that there be Mandela clones in Africa. His legacy, however, speaks for itself and is unassailable. He charted the path to progressive political leadership that others would be wise to take note of and be challenged by. There must be reform on the continent that calls for effective leadership, accountability, transparency and respect and tolerance for the opposition. These efforts must be pursued none stop till good governance and democratic process are achieved. In fact, President Obama has sent a strong message across the continent that predatory leadership will be frowned upon and even shunned where necessary. He just announced that he plans to call for his first US-Africa summit in August, to which all African leaders will be invited except those of Egypt, Sudan, Madagascar, Guinea-Bissau and Zimbabwe. Read between the lines.

 

December 6th, 2013

I feel empty today with Nelson Mandela gone from us. All of us as human beings experience a time or actually several times when we know that a relative or friend is about to leave us but that when it actually happens, the pain is hard. I never knew Mandela personally but when this news came, it hit me hard. As a result of his death, I and many others have lost a political leader who will give us the personal comfort and pleasure of telling the world the hard truth about any of the issues facing the world, from health and social problems to politics. It was such a pleasure for me to watch Mandela look anybody in the eye (through the media of course) and tell it like it is. For more than 3 decades of his public life you could count on him being forthright even when it was painful for you to hear. You could also be comforted by the fact that what came from his mouth carried a universal moral force and truth, even if you were on the receiving end of his utterances.

As an African, two such examples come to mind. After being sworn in as President of South Africa he gave a speech (in Cairo, I think) in which he said we all need to face up to the fact that many parts of Africa have been misgoverned for years. Sitting in that audience were many of those African leaders who had misgoverned their own countries or inherited countries in political and economic shambles as a result of bad governance. He was bluntly telling them that he had learned from their mistakes and would by implication steer South Africa in a different direction. And while he tried to do so during his stewardship of South Africa’s affairs for five years, many of those attending that Cairo speech or hearing about it through the media seem to have missed the message. I can recount here several examples of such countries and you readers can too. From economic mismanagement, corruption, rigged elections and renegade judiciaries, the continent of Africa crawls in hunger, disease, lack of opportunity and political slavery, as a result. Civil war and conflict are taking its toll on ordinary people yearning to live freely and peacefully. Yet Mandela’s South Africa is such a contrast to all of this misery. Sure, South Africa’s economic and social problems are legion but through Mandela’s leadership and example that country is an island of political stability on that continent. They will find it easier to solve their problems under a free and democratic dispensation. For a country that lived under 300 years of raw racism and racial oppression, South Africans are a shining example of what human beings are capable of building from the ashes of their own past. Can other African countries learn this simple lesson?

To me, Mandela’s lasting legacy is his determined refusal to let anger and bitterness become the guiding principle on how a new South Africa would be established. There is no doubt that deep inside him was an angry and bitter man for what the apartheid regime had done. Who wouldn’t? But he was determined not to let his former tormentors say “we told you so” in order to excuse their evil deeds. Again what a contrast with some current African leaders. After 30, 40 or 50 years, you still hear some of these African leaders blaming the colonial powers for everything. You have heard such ridiculous statements as lack of efficient agriculture, industry or access to health being the fault of colonial legacies, even after at least a quarter century of so called independence. And you still hear justification of lack of democracy and political freedom on ‘foreign’ influences intent on ‘destabilizing’ society.  Mandela took responsibility for molding a new nation and he said he would do it the right way, including abandoning political power after one term in office because, as he implied, there were more important things about political stability for a society than one person staying in office despite his or her popularity. You can count on your first two fingers (Nyerere of Tanzania and Chissano of Mozambique) where an African leader has done this.

Since Mandela’s death was announced I have watched television commentaries from around the world,  all of them telling the story of a great, good and modest man who was revered all over the world. One commentator said that he may be a son of Africa but he belongs to the whole world because of who he was and the public and private examples he set in his life.  Yes, he belongs to the world and “for the ages” as President Obama said, but for Africans he is one of us. One of us was capable of being a good leader, plain and simple. To you the other African leaders what is your excuse for not following in his footsteps?