Leadership in Africa

There is a great deal wrong in Africa. The continent has the highest ratio of internally displaced people in the world, we generate more refugees than any other continent, and we are poorer now than we were before independence. We are the Aids capital of the globe and our life expectancies are retreating on a scale seldom seen in history.


It's not for lack of resources - we have those in abundance and if we rated Africa on the basis of population to its natural resource base we would find ourselves at the top of the log. It's not for a lack of energy - we are now a major producer and exporter of oil, we have vast reserves of coal and hydroelectric potential to light the continent for decades to come. It's not for a lack of aid from richer countries - many States in Africa draw up to half their annual budgets from donors in the West. Per capita we are one of the largest recipients of aid in the history of the world

The reason for all these problems lies not in our history nor in the predation of industrial economies, it lies in our leadership. No better example of this could be found than the latest meeting of African Heads of State in the Gambia. This leadership summit of the African Union was expected to yield new consensus on Darfur, condemnation of human rights abuse in a number of countries, including Zimbabwe and the adoption of a Democracy Charter for the continent. On the sidelines it was expected to yield a breakthrough in the crisis in Zimbabwe.

Instead we have the spectacle of the Heads of State rejecting the Democracy Charter, refusing to face up to the genocidal activities of the government of the Sudan and complete failure to come to grips with the crisis in Zimbabwe. A two-year-old report on human rights abuse is again deferred at the request of the perpetrators. I despair and so do many others who hold the welfare of Africa and its people's dear.

Of particular concern to us is of course the complete failure to come to grips with the Zimbabwean crisis. Here is a prime example of the failure of leadership in Africa. The most educated government on the continent, one that came to power 26 years ago with such hope and promise has swept the rule of law aside, corrupted the whole democratic system and deliberately and systematically destroyed a functioning and relatively efficient and competitive African economy.

This regime, led by Mr. Mugabe who struts the AU stage like a Pharaoh, has seen the life expectancy of its people decline by half in ten years, seen its economic output slashed by half and its exports by two thirds and reduced the value of its currency to a tiny fraction of its value. A third of its people have fled the country as refugees and another third are effectively internally displaced. A million people will leave the country this year as the human tide continues to swell and all State institutions - especially those of health and education are simply disintegrating in front of our eyes.

Many argue that we have gone beyond the point of no return. That we are destined to become another Somalia or Congo. There is absolutely no expectation here that the present leadership can address these mammoth problems and perhaps turn the tide of disaster and despair. When Rhodesia and South Africa presented a similar outlook to the world, because it involved white leadership of predominantly black countries, the oppressed peoples of these countries could rely on the solidarity of the OAU and the 'Front Line States' for their well being and future prospects. They could rely on a world community that would not hesitate to impose mandatory global trade sanctions on tiny Rhodesia and global sanction of the regime in Pretoria.

When the final crunch came and change became essential for the prospects of the people of these two countries, the global community rallied - first behind Henry Kissinger and P W Botha to remove Ian Smith from power and then 12 years later behind Margaret Thatcher, to force F W de Klerk to accept reality and begin the process of closure on 40 years of Apartheid. In neither instance was domestic pressure and resistance the primary reason for the act, which brought closure to these regimes.

Now that we have an African Head of State behaving in a similar manner and also destroying his country on the alter of his ego and avarice, no one is willing to take up the cudgel and come to the rescue of the ordinary citizen held captive by the Zanu PF regime. Not Mr. Mbeki, not Kofi Annan, not the AU or the 'Front Line States' who have so much at stake. Instead they shrink back into a defensive huddle knowing full well that they are often just as guilty as Mr. Mugabe when it comes to failure of their leadership responsibilities.

The decision by Annan was especially difficult to comprehend - he knows the facts, he has 6 months to go and does not need the votes of Africa to win another term and he has the authority and the support of the major nations to do something useful for once. But no, he ducks the issue, blandly tucks Zimbabwe and it's suffering people into a Tanzanian cubbyhole and walks away. I hope he enjoys his hard currency pension while we pay the price of his failure to lead.

Well at least that clears the air for us - we now know we are alone in this struggle and that we must liberate ourselves or face disaster in every way. We have ourselves and our faith in God. In the latter respect we are one of the most Christian countries in the world. This gives us the appearance of docility that is deceptive. I always said it took a great deal of provocation to get the people in Zimbabwe to finally confront the situation here in 1970.

Well now perhaps we are there again. Only this time we are really standing alone. Nothing wrong with that - the Bible promises that 'they that wait upon the Lord, will not grow weary'. We will not quit this struggle, we will not give in and in the end our struggle will produce a better government than we have now - one which will look to the interests of our people and not their own. A government that will restore our basic rights and freedoms and allow us to work and play in the land of our birth. A leadership that will respect our democratic right to choose our leaders and to dismiss them when they do not act in our best interests.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 4th July 2006.