Zuma foreign policy adviser Lindiwe Zulu said the team is following up on a road-map to elections and issues related to the Global Political Agreement for power sharing which underpins the two-year-old unity government
Why are African leaders fond of perpetrating themselves in power? This has been the case with the late Mobutu Sese Seko in Zaire, Mohammad Gaddafi of Libya, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Paul Biya of Cameroon, Kamuzu Banda of Malawi, former Ibrahim Babangida of Nigeria, Omar Bongo of Gabon and Laurent Gbagbo of Ivory Coast, among others. It is simplistic to answer that they are so endeared to the benefits of power and are always unwilling to vacate power when there is need for them to do so. African leaders have been in the habit of designing series of Maradonic and Machiavellian strategies for self perpetuation in power. Yet, it is true that they often forget that power is the only a matrix which has in itself potential for destruction. It is only in Africa that I have seen leaders dying in power or been disgraced from power, after they have refused to heed to simple voice of reason. They just love power. The experience in Europe and other developed societies really shown the willingness of leaders to vacate power when the ovation is loudest. Even at a slightest public disapproval, they show that power is not their personal property. This is not so in Africa; African leaders cherish power and see it as a private property.
The recent events and revolution in Egypt that eventually led to the forcing out of Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian President, after turbulent 18 days agitation and protest shows the sheer desperation of African leaders to sit-tight in power without heeding to the voice their people. A similar revolt had earlier taken place in Tunisia where President Zine El Abidine Ben Alli was ousted from power. This sheer desperation is only shrouded in the barefaced arrogance and insensitivity which some African leaders have continued to display against their people. Mubarak’s insistence further make the country ungovernable for 18 days with economic, political and social institutions completely suspended. The simple truism is that the period of the protest has no doubt fostered untold hardship on the Egyptians, which they are not likely to regain in due course.
In a similar manner, the former dictators such as General Sani Abacha of Nigeria, Mohammed Ghaddafi of Libya, Late President Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire, and Paul Biya of Cameroon, among others, showed lack of concern and desperation to continue to rule through autocratic disposition with little regard for thier people. The conviction and commitment of the Egyptians over the 18 days of protest depict their resolve to be free from autocratic rule and crass disregard for the plight of humanity. Professor Ben Nwabueze was more poignant when he claimed that “which is driven by the people and their faith in human freedoms? There is no universally prescribed method of revolution, but where the quality of human life is trampled upon and the people’s rights are routinely abused, the people as a collective have a duty to stand up and declaim: “Never again!”
The Egyptians resolve was therefore not unfounded because it was as the result of many years of suppression, brutality, and denial of right and alienation. In spite of what Dr Reuben Abati called the myth, for example, that religion is a binding factor that makes the Middle Eastern population easier to control and dominate, Egyptians have defied this odd by choosing to fight for their freedom from the manacles and shackles of oppression. The aftermath of the revolution has dubbed it a historic change and has been welcomed from across the world. The EU, US, Germany and UK have all reacted positively claiming the resolve of the Egyptians have been justified and that it is an historic change capable of catapulting the country from authoritarian regime to civilian and democratic order.
What lessons are there to be learnt from the revolt in Egypt? What happened in Egypt is a clear lesson to the West, especially United States. It also sounds a clear but unequivocal warning to sit-tight African leaders that their days are numbered. As for the West, it is a lesson that they have to grind their teeth because the Egyptian revolution has caught them in the dilemma of their own logic. When you implicitly support autocratic government for the clear reason of protecting your interest at the behest of the people sovereign in their country, then what you gain is the Egyptian revolution. The west must urgently rethink and learn the lesson. As for the sit-tight African leaders, although it is not clear whether other Africans like the Egyptians have the orientation and the consciousness displayed by the Egyptians in the Egyptian revolution, the truth however is that it is unpredictable when a revolution would be ripe like this. Nevertheless, if the Northern African people most of whom have been dominated and controlled with religion can stage such protest to oust their President, then what happened in Egypt is capable of happening elsewhere. There is certainly a limit to how long the people can be oppressed. The scenario in Egypt and Tunisia therefore serves a serious warning for sit-tight leaders and perpetrators in power.
Abiodun Fatai is a Lecturer in Political Science at the Lagos State University, and a PhD Candidate at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria
History has been made today after a protracted peaceful protest by the Egyptians that saw their despotic self-styled maximum ruler of 30 years, handed power over to the military, an institution he has used over these years to protect his stay. That feat was a fall-out of the scenario that played itself out in Tunisia weeks back. It is a further confirmation of the fact the people decide who rules them.
For too long African leaders are typified for their stay-put attitude in power. Once they come to power, they turn themselves into civilian presidents through manipulated elections and continue to renew their tenures of office with landslide victory election after election. Mubarak is not a child of circumstance; what happened to him today that witnessed his fall from glory to grass is a seed his had sown long before today. His firm grip on the North African Red Sea nation since the 1981 when Aswar Sadat was assassinated has brought more and more hardship on the people of Egypt than socio-political and economic benefits.
He turned the government to personal fiefdom where he nursed the plan of presenting his son as a presidential aspirant in the next general elections. It was not known till today if he would have run again for the highest office he had monopolized in the last three decades. Unlike the proverbial cat, he never has nine lives that could take him to next tenure he had envisioned. The people decided today that he must bow to the popular will, a process that began young people embarked on self-immolation in the face of hardship, abject poverty in the midst of plenty, high unemployment and high inflation rates in the country. The popular Tahir Square was the main stage for the over two weeks protest.
To Africa leaders, the fall of Ali-Ben Bongo of Tunisia weeks ago, and that of the former Egyptian strongman Mubarak should serve as a warning sign that it is not business as usual. In specific terms the other so-called ‘strongmen’ like Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, M. Gaddafi of Libya and recently Laurent Gbagbo of Ivory Coast should know that the coast is not clear for their sit-tight attitude. My. Gbagbo has held on to power for about a decade and refused to relinquish power to the rightful winner of the presidential election despite international pressure. They should note it down in their dairy today that the era of complacency on the part of the ordinary people is over. The African people can now assert their right and at any time, they will decide who govern them.
Godfrey Eloho is Public Affairs Analyst based in Port Harcourt, Nigeria
Frustrated Zimbabweans seem to have discovered a new hobby as they ridicule their aging president, Robert Mugabe and his young wife, Grace.
Two men from the border town of Plumtree, a gateway to Botswana, had the audacity of drawing caricatures of Zimbabwe’s extravagant first lady, Grace Mugabe cuddling his long suspected lover’s private parts, Reserve Bank Governor, Gideon Gono.
The pair – Blessed Gay Phiri, a former police officer, and Mxolisi Tshabalala were arrested for possessing subversive material which court records reveal they had received in the form of bank notes from an unknown suspect.
Several bank notes depicted the aging Mugabe standing with his young wife, Grace, and Gono, Mugabe’s personal banker, while Grace was depicted in the cartoon holding Gono’s private parts with a wide smile.
Surprisingly, Phiri, who was nabbed on 18 January while showing off the notes to a group of friends was not formally charged with undermining the authority or insulting president or his immediate family when he appeared in court last Friday (February 4).
The two men are currently out on a $50 bail each and scheduled to appear on March 2.
A controversial history
A number of Zimbabweans have been arrested over the past few years for insulting Mugabe whom they blame for ruining what was once one of Africa’s success stories with common insults ranging from idiot, goblin, moron to crazy old man.
Nonetheless it is an offence under Zimbabwe’s tough security laws to undermine or insult Mugabe, the only ruler Zimbabweans have ever known since the country’s independence from Britain 30 years ago.
Grace Mugabe who is Robert Mugabe’s second official wife and who is 41 years his junior, has since 2005 been romantically linked with controversial Reserve Bank chief, Gono and is also believed to have had a string of lovers in the past, some of who have died or disappeared under mysterious circumstances.
Two of the most known names include, Peter Pamire, a budding young businessman died in a bizarre car accident some years back, and James Makamba, one of Zimbabwe’s richest businessmen and a top-ranking Zanu-PF official who is believed to have been forced into exile when the cover was blown over his affair with Grace.
But Mugabe’s current union with Grace was founded on an adulterous relationship which shocked many Zimbabweans at the time.
Grace, who used to be a junior secretary in the typing pool in Mugabe’s office, was married to an air force officer when she began having an affair with the president.
Robert Mugabe had two children with Grace while Mugabe’s first wife, Sally, a Ghanaian national, was alive.
After Sally Mugabe’s death in 1996, Robert Mugabe officially married Grace.
Johannesburg (South Africa) – The year is only 34 days old and already it has seen the absolute demise of one dictatorship (Tunisia), the near collapse of another (Egypt), the rattling of a third (Jordan), the likely ruin of a fourth (Yemen) and the possible failure of a fifth (Algeria). That, by any measure, is a good start to what may be the most fundamental political change in the Middle East since 1948, when the state of Israel was founded.
The drama of the past 34 days was enhanced by the fact that two of the dictatorships either to fall (Tunisia) or flirt with downfall (Egypt) were, until recently, considered, especially by the US government, the most stable and least likely to fall.
In fact, US strategy in the Middle East has rested largely on an expensive peace between Egypt and Israel bankrolled by the US. It is largely because of this peace, brokered by former US president Jimmy Carter back when he occupied the White House, that Egypt is one of the top three recipients of military and other aid from the US, after Israel. The peace rested on a firm understanding between the Americans, Israelis and Egyptians, whose state is the largest and most politically significant in the Middle East, that the other Arab-led dictatorships in the Middle East posed little existential threat to Israel so long as Egypt honoured its side of the Camp David agreement.
But Egypt now looks likely to fall, meaning Egypt as we know it could change dramatically as Egyptians, fed up with corruption, neglected by a statistically impressive but empirically hopeless economy, and fed up with a leader, Hosni Mubarak, who seemed to think he was fated by history to rule, take to the streets to demand his ousting.
But it is not only Mubarak’s Egypt that is likely to go into the proverbial dustbin of history. The US policy of making nice with Mubarak while ignoring his brutality against his political opponents and, occasionally, using Mubarak’s apparatus of repression for the “rendition” and torture of enemy combatants, will also have to change.
The last thing the US wants is to, again, find itself backing the wrong side in the wave of protests sweeping the Middle East. The US made that mistake by backing a coup against a democratically elected government in Iran in the 1950s, supporting Saddam Hussein and even plying him with arms in the 1980s while he fought against the hated ayatollahs of Iran, and abandoning, in Afghanistan, the mujahedeen, who had helped the US give the hapless Soviets a taste of Vietnam. That is why the US has been treading gingerly on this. That is why US President Barack Obama has been frantically trying to sound allied to both prodemocracy protesters and Mubarak at the same time. Obama wants to be able to claim some credit should Egypt be delivered finally from dictatorship.
But what is the lesson of the recent events for southern Africa? In particular, what lessons does the wave of protests sweeping the Middle East have for Zimbabweans?
The most important lesson to come out of Egypt and Tunisia, it seems to me, is that revolutions cannot be outsourced. There has been something rather obscene about the ways in which some human rights activists, Zimbabwean and non-Zimbabwean, have presented the problems in Zimbabwe as if they are entirely SA’s or, to be exact, Thabo Mbeki ’s. One got the impression sometimes that these activists wanted Mbeki and South Africans in general to march on Harare. Some even suggested SA invade Zimbabwe.
What these hysterical calls did was absolve the prodemocracy movement in Zimbabwe of the responsibility to take the lead in the fight against Robert Mugabe’s dictatorship. Why is it, for example, that none of us who want to see Mugabe out of office and on trial for all sorts of crimes have bothered to ask why the Movement for Democratic Change, whose roots are supposedly in Zimbabwe’s labour movement, has yet to organise a successful strike, stayaway or other form of popular protest?
None of this is to ignore the brave men and women, journalists, lawyers, farmers and ordinary citizens who have protested against Mugabe’s rule and paid with everything from their lives to their limbs and property. The actions of these people must be recognised and honoured. But they cannot and should not be the exception.
Zimbabweans cannot outsource their revolution. They cannot leave the fight for their freedom to others. Sure, they need support, solidarity and the knowledge that the rest of the world is on their side. But they cannot expect the fight to be led by outsiders. That, for me, is what the Egyptians and the Tunisians have taught us.
Mubarak has one of the most formidable repressive machineries in the world but that has proved worthless in the face of popular protest. Voting with their feet, as the millions of Zimbabweans have done by moving to SA, Zambia, Botswana, Canada, Australia, the US and the UK, must have been a difficult thing to do. But it is by no means courageous. Courage is staring down a dictator, telling him to go and standing your ground. That is what the North Africans have done. Let us hope Zimbabweans learn from them.
*Jacob Dlamini is a South African writer.
The police have largely disappeared from the streets but there is a heavy military presence in the city, even though soldiers are not intervening in the situation.
The world is gradually moving towards a position where individuals with potent capacity and will power can actualize their dreams and aspirations in life regardless of race, skin color, language and other relevant factors.
Categories: Issues Tags: african leaders, african politicians, AUDACITY OF HOPE, barack obama, charles taylor, Desmond Tutu, jomo kenyatta, kwame nkrumah, leadership in africa, nelson mandela, obamanation, robert mugabe, solomon johnson, US presidential election
The tragedy that has become Cote d’Ivoire is unfortunately one of those déjà vu situations that continue to haunt the African continent. We have been here before, in Zimbabwe, in Kenya, in Zanzibar, and in many other places where stoic societies suffer without exploding.