(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.


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