opinionBy Gerhard Sam
LATELY, southern Africa has seen some countries finding it hard to keep their economies floating and providing basic services to people, which the state is mandated to do.
In this case, let us look at Swaziland and Malawi. Swaziland is one the world's poorest countries but that has not discouraged King Mswati III to live a lavish lifestyle by buying the latest sedans cars for his many wives and expand his toys, for example, cars, mansions and private jets.
Now, let us look at Malawi. Firstly, rest in peace the late Bingu wa Mutharika. He was a man of good taste and class too! It is due to his lavish lifestyle and misguided policies that Malawi's economy is in trouble at present moment. As a normal practice by many, Mutharika too bought himself a private jet (around £10 m - N$128 million) in 2009; spent millions on a government fleet, he opposed IMF [International Monetary Fund] and he is also on record for having bought himself a 58-rooms mansion in his home town or district. His wife was granted a full salary too. All these were done at a time when Malawi had shortages of fuel and foreign currency and simply to benefit only one man over the masses.
I always believe that in Africa and elsewhere, it is the policies that make leaders, and often they do not prioritise the necessary and much-needed policies or projects that can certainly impact the plight and livelihood of the people whom they took an oath to serve.
In April this year, Joyce Banda came to power after the late Mutharika died of a heart attack. Remember she has inherited a government in an awful state of turmoil; she is a gallant leader to accept this post to save her nation from the ills fashioned by the former leader.
Madame Banda has thus recently sold the presidential jet (around £8.4 m - N$107 million) and a fleet of 60 Mercedes sedans used by ministers.
Frankly, any government does not need these properties when people are starving in the country. It is much hoped that the proceeds from this sale can make a difference in the poor people's lives and boost the economy after the devaluation of their currency. Such a courageous decision has not been entertained by any leader on the continent after Thomas Sankara. Therefore, herewith, I truly salute President Joyce Banda for her actions.
In attempting to equate the two leaders, let me first give a brief background of this fallen hero from Burkina Faso. Thomas Isidore NoÃ«l Sankara (21 Dec 1949 - 15 Oct 1987) was a Burkinabé military captain, Pan-Africanist, theorist and later became the President of Burkina Faso from 1983 - 1987. Thomas Sankara was an iconic figure and charismatic young leader, hence often referred to as Africa's 'Che Guevara'. When he rose to power, Thomas Sankara did some of the following to emancipate and unite his countrymen and women: He reduced the salaries of public servants including his own.
He sold off a government fleet of Mercedes cars used by ministers. He refused to use air conditioning in his office, a luxury that every native should have if he was to use it. He only owned one car and four bikes; he took land from feudal-landlords and distributed it directly to peasants and subsequently wheat production grew and Burkina Faso became self-sufficient in food production in a period of two years only. Sankara opposed foreign aid, on the notion that "he who feeds you, controls you".
In contrast, often we see leaders crying for donations and aid assistance from the West - they will remain controlled by the capitalists. As long as we have leaders who treasure western luxury cars, private jets, build monuments, state houses, receive donor funds and aid, surely Africa will remain the backward 'dark continent'.