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The Devils' Annexe  - Leadership in Africa

The Devils' Annexe - Leadership in Africa

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Sixth in a series of
The Devils' Annexe
Leadership in Africa
Sidney & Shirley Robbins
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Apologising for the past may be politically fashionable, but perpetuating the myth that all Africa’s failures can be attributed to colonialism is of no help at all to those brave Africans who are standing up to the likes of Mugabe and other African despots. And this also applies to those who are brave enough to warn us about potential despots.
It is time that we reflected on the problems in contemporary Africa.

Leadership in Africa
The psychological dilemma of African leaders.

Any mention that you come from Africa results in compassionate and concerned expressions. These emotions of pity are the result of the prevalent image of Africa, which is one of fraud, theft, hunger, war, disaster and famine - and this from those who feel deeply about Africa; they have visited Africa - but remain on the whole, abysmally ignorant about this strange continent and its people – and in particular their rulers.

Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa compared the situation in Zimbabwe to the Titanic. But Zambia's vice-president, Rupiah Banda said: 'Zimbabwe is a sovereign state which should be respected by all . . . its people decide who is their leader and as far as we are concerned, right here [pointing at Mugabe], we have one of the most outstanding leaders in the world and in Africa.' (South African Sunday Times 22 April 2007.)

These statements emphasize the dilemma that faces Africa, and those on the outside who attempt to make some sense of African politics and its leaders.

The problem with much of the African leadership is that they have woven themselves into a web of prevarications, half-truths and hypocrisy from which it appears they are unable to extricate themselves. Many of them are committed to keeping power, at whatever the cost, including at the expense of democracy. Furthermore, many of them have proved that they are not afraid to spill the blood of their own people to retain power. If they were ever to lose an election, heads would roll, corruption would be exposed and many would not be able to retire gracefully. They would have to answer for the collapsed economies, the fraud, the theft, the murders and they would probably retire to the jail cells where they have incarcerated many of their former opponents, who may now be holding the reins of state. Furthermore, their henchmen and closest supporters and fawning flunkies cannot survive the president’s - if he falls, they fall – like dominoes.

The major problem arises when, should the leader fall, their luxurious living and lifestyles will be threatened. Take Mugabe as an example. He has steered ZanuPF into pretty much the same position as the Nazis in the latter days of Hitler. By the end, you only have the Führer and if he goes down, so does the whole ship of state.

When Mugabe claims that Western policies have not helped Zimbabwe, most African leaders share this philosophy. Many African leaders are sensitive to the loud Western condemnation of Mugabe or any other African tyrant and their calls for Africa to 'do something'. They resent, and dismiss as an intrusion, the criticism of the pace of Africa’s democratisation; they insist that this is a matter of national sovereignty.

The African Myths

Political propaganda can be a devastating and debilitating tool. It is often frightening to see the extent to which people can be conned into believing 'government' or 'party' policies. Just how was the German nation duped into accepting the doctrine of Nazism? Apartheid as a policy saw the indoctrination of not only the Afrikaner people, but many English-speaking people as well.

We are experiencing a similar situation in South Africa where vast numbers of African National Congress (ANC) supporters regard South Africa as a world power - indeed the epicentre of the world. The fact is that it hardly features as a world-trading nation on a continent that commands no more than one-percent of the world's economy. This kind of propaganda is not only dishonest, but also dangerous, and when people eventually discover that they have been misled, discontent and strife are the logical outcome. But when it suits the occasion, South Africa can be an 'emerging' or 'developing' or indeed a 'Third World' country. What do these all mean?

'Emerging countries' is a hopeful expression, but it is far from an accurate description of what is going on in every poor country of the world. This has been overtaken by another upbeat, and optimistic term: 'developing countries.' The most evocative term, though, is 'Third World.' This expression was coined in the 1950’s to designate those nations that were non-aligned and belonged neither to the mainly communist bloc nor to the mainly industrialised, capitalist and democratic group of nations – the West. The term also classified these nations as the world’s poorest and who needed development..

But ‘Third-Worldism’ soon developed into an ideology in the 1960’s and it has become the official doctrine of numerous international organisations, churches, sections of the press, political groupings, certain politicians, and numerous other organisations. In the Third World, it forms the basis for nearly all standard rhetoric. So what are the aims of this ideology? Is it to reveal the causes of world poverty and to provide cures for it? This conception is not only misleading, but dated and has lost all its conceptual usefulness.

The unpalatable truth is, the situation in Africa is a disaster. Neither independence, nor foreign aid, nor handouts has brought the continent the slightest chance of emerging from its misery and escaping its slow suicide. So one theory of Third Worldism is that some nations became wealthy because they exploited the labour and wealth of the nations they colonised. Then after these countries gained independence, they remained under the economic thumb of their former colonial masters. The various theories abound, and are aired repeatedly and with gusto wherever the IMF, World Bank and so on hold a conference. The multi-nationals are blamed for a host of ills from wholesale genocide to the hunger and poverty of these nations.

The fact is that the mineral and energy resources of Africa have yet to be fully exploited. But there are many myths surrounding this ‘supposed’ wealth.
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