A key inhibition to the development of the African continent is the failure for some of its leaders to recognise their shortcoming and surrender power to more competent or suitable successors.
The month of May saw the suspension of Brazilian President, Dilma Rousseff, for the alleged tweaking of figures to paint the country in a more favourable economic position than it already is. This, yan apparent breach of the faith that was placed in her by those who gave her that position, is exemplary of how leaders are held accountable in countries where democracy is not only a word, but rather the torch that lights their economic prosperity.
Several thousand kilometres South East of Brazil lies a country called South Africa, where it’s President, Jacob Zuma, was recently found guilty by a constitutional court of betraying the same trust bestowed on him by the voters through the use of state funds amounting to over a hundred million to build himself a village home more affectionately known as Nkandla. The difference with the two is that the former is currently incurring punitive measures against her for an action that would be deemed valiant, where it not for its deceptive nature, while the latter betrayed the faith placed in him by the voters with a project that benefits himself and not the country at large. That notwithstanding, Rousseff faces impending impeachment while Zuma sits at the helm of fellow BRICS member, South Africa with nothing more than reputational damage to his name and the instruction to pay back the state fund used to build the village home in question back to the treasury before a certain time. Those with a more refined understanding of the law will undoubtedly agree that the measures taken against the South African president by the constitutional court are more corrective rather than punitive.
In light of the forthcoming Presidential elections in South Africa, it seems more plausible than not that Zuma will continue to be the President of our economically beleaguered neighbour well beyond the time of Rousseff’s probable impeachment later this year. What does this say about the value we place on leaders, regardless of whether they are ineffectual or not? At what point in an African country’s development does a constitutional breach from the head of state become a serious enough offense for said leader to be recalled?
Namibia, Zambia and Tanzania are countries that have been exemplary in the smooth transition of governance from one President to the next. This has been buoyed by the fact that the policies in the ruling parties with regards to choosing the most suitable individual to lead these parties and through extension, these countries, have been sound. With that as a reference, how then does it happen that the second largest economy on the African continent is placed in the hands of an individual who has little regard for the supreme law of the country he leads?
If the constitutional breach by South Africa’s head of state is not enough to warrant a political change, then perhaps the paltry state of that country’s economy should be placed under the microscope.
It is difficult to imagine that Africa can ever emerge from the doldrums of the third world if its inhabitants continue to elect ineffectual leaders into the highest political offices of their countries. The aforementioned does not only bring into question the collective wisdom of the voters in that country but also illustrates the political immaturity of this country. If we as Africans are unable to take examples from countries like Brazil, who value the country’s prosperity and economic stability over any individual leader, how can we expect to one day rival the larger economies of the world?