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Leadership Crisis in Africa: Words have turned into bullets that maim the innocent

By Derick Matsengarwodzi

It spells gloom for a nation when a leader believes there is no future after the revolutionary party. It’s even depressing when the ideology is practised elsewhere in Africa in a bid to sustain status quo. But what is the underlying phenomenon in this trend. 

President Jacob Zuma walking with the Mozambique President Armando Emílio Guebuza and Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe on their way to the official opening of SADC Summit to be held in Maputo, Mozambique.
President Jacob Zuma walking with the Mozambique President Armando Emílio Guebuza and Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe on their way to the official opening of SADC Summit to be held in Maputo, Mozambique.

Herein is our main problem.

The vice-chancellor of the University of the Witwatersrand, Adam Habib recently argued that:

“Zuma’s idea of leadership is that of a “chieftaincy” in which he provides from the government largesse and expects something in return.” Meaning, we are stuck with selfish leaders who are ready to stick to their wayward behaviours despite their glaring failures.

Historically, chieftainship was not determined by majority but blood lineage. They were accountable to a chosen few. And there lies our recurrent setback. We, as a continent continually trust our future in tainted blood lineage. Our leaders may present different faces but they seem to have the same hereditary destructive ideology. Therefore, the leadership blood lineage is soiled and is running and ruining the continent.

Today, our continent faces a critical deficit in political leadership. Our real adversary is not lack of resources or the elective process, but our own egocentric leaders we continually nominate or we are forced to accept to safeguard our interests.

Present day democracies are laden with a few politically privileged individuals that seek to divert a people’s agenda that they proclaim to champion. In the end, generations have been yoked by individuals they elect to champion their collective agenda. It is happening elsewhere now as I write.

Apathy has therefore crippled the elective procedures headlining them as a financial burden; a travesty upon many regimes and a mockery of democratic space. Monetary rewards, accumulation of fraudulent wealth has unfortunately become the sole motivator to win elections. Hatred, accusations and speech cannibalism evoking destruction dominate their campaigns. Words have turned into bullets that maim the innocent.

Latest voter intimidation and electoral manipulation in Kenya and Zimbabwe are just but some of the prominent illustrations. The influenced results are the worst form of daylight witchcraft, crafted to deny the masses the right to dictate their own destiny. Persuasive language to win the electorate has been relegated and if allowed, it is monopolised by the ruling elite with access to state resources and media outlets.

Leaders are not born anymore; they are now manufactured in uncultured factories using a major ingredient called self-interest, intimidation, vote buying and camaraderie. The end product as expected is a reject devoid of the requisite management elements. Many leaders lack moral values and divert people’s agendas; they are individuals isolated from the aspirations of the majority.

Top of their list remains self enrichment, thereby abusing their subjects’ trust. Their goals are limited: If they are not a war mongers, they are consolidating absolute power oblivious of the route they take. In the process they utilise force that their atomic minds can assume to turn their agendas into immortal theories ignoring glaring resistance.

And when it blows in their forth, they blame everyone and not themselves. The North African uprisings confirm my argument. It’s not a secret; most leaders have become a burden to their constituencies. They are shameless hounds copulating with corruption in public domain abusing civic trust. A majority of politicians are a cancer eating into our social fabric leaving scars of destruction.

Their promise for salvation evaporates each time and is relegated into speeches during pricey conferences and commemorations. Sadly, subjects have become pawns in fulfilling selfish agendas, only to be called when their vote is required, sometimes solicited by violent force. This, I presume gives a new dimension to leadership.

It is now fashionable for politicians to gloat about their abrasion of power knowingly that the law will not harm them. And when rebellion flares after years of tormenting their subjects, they wonder where the influence has come from. The destiny of Africa is shifting from its citizens. Rather, it has been ambushed by a privileged minority and on each instance they are called for accountability they cry colonialism mentality and capitalist vultures.

Fortunately, we have been schooled to understand what they mean by this: you cannot question the decisions of the ruling clan no matter how errant they are; just agree and move on – safely. Having lived in two countries on the African continent, I have noticed this common element.

The uprisings in North Africa should serve as a warning to all office bearers. The writing is on the wall; you either read it or choose to erase it with dismal consequences. Africa seeks upright leaders. A liberation organisation’s history will not merely solve our crisis – ‘comrades’.