1 December 2012

Africa: What Thabo Mbeki Did Not Say


THIS week we had a rare treat from a renowned fiery orator, the refined but humiliated South African former leader Thabo Mbeki when he gave a public lecture at the University of Dar es Salaam urging the African leaders to strive for continental unity in order to address challenges troubling our continent.

It was not surprising for Professor Issa Shivji's intervention when he referred to Mbeki as one of the true African leaders who did not mince his words when talking against NATO's intervention in Libya.

The holding of such intellectual cum political talks has rekindled hope to many of us, the revival of the old days when Tanzania, through University of Dar es Salaam was held high and considered to be the hotbed of independent revolutionary thinking and the conscience of African dignity.

We need such independent thinking coming from authoritative thinkers to feed our saturated minds of local politics that marginalise our thinking capacity. Mbeki first addressed the Breakfast Round Table at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Dar es Salam where he is quoted to have candidly blamed African Union (AU) for the continuous existence of poverty and dependency on foreign aids.

As a former leader of one of the richest countries in Africa, he qualified his observations by saying that, "as a continent we have perfect policies that can help in addressing various challenges that are facing us. Our problem is implementation which remains to be our main challenge."

A million dollar question to other African countries that to date, they do not know why they are poor while they have abundance of natural resources? To this one, Mbeki says that the continent has good policies on natural resources but the problem is on the internalization of these policies supposed to prudently guide the utilization of these resources.

African countries have comprehensive agricultural development policies with elements needed to develop the sector but implementation has been problematic hindering the continent from achieving desirable development, a failure to manage natural resources to benefit local needs.

Sadly he says fifty billion dollars get lost in Africa every year in illegal export and capital flight. Such illicit outflows rise due to poor management of local natural resources. But is that all for our African countries? Not at all, in here we were taught to believe and it is true that for sustainable economic development we need three components; people, land and good political dispensation.

I expected Mbeki to touch the political dispensation of the African countries which is one of the drawbacks of African economic development. Mbeki, himself is the victim of political vendetta which found him otherwise a progressive leader prematurely forced to leave the office.

His exit from leadership has led to the split of the ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC) with strong revolutionaries like Mosiuoa (Terror) Lekota, former Defence Minister and Mbhazima Shilowa, ex prime-minister of Johannesburg region going the other way. After the Polokwane ANC Congress, it became real with the creation of Congress of the People (COPE) led by Lekota with his rebel group.

Like in other African political parties, personality differences, a left-right split on economic policies and the usual ethnic divisions have been the reason behind the split. However in less than a month the ANC Congress is expected to meet at the wake of this most turbulent phase of post apartheid South Africa history to date.

The deadly mining and farming labour unrest, and growing joblessness which have rocked the nation may further destabilize the party! In Namibia, SWAPO ruling party is right now holding its National Congress which will among other things elect the Party's Vice-Chairman, a possible candidate for the 2014 Presidential Elections.

Already divisions within the party are strife as three prominent members are contesting. They include the former Prime Minister, Hage Geigob, who is known to have been vying for the presidential slot for so long. Others are the current Minister of Justice and Party's General Secretary Ms Pendukeni Iinvula Ithana and the firebrand Jerry Ekandjo, the former Robben Island graduate.

This is seen as a fierce, cutthroat campaign reminiscent of the 2007 which found the creation of the new splinter party, Rally for Democracy and Progress from SWAPO led by former liberation struggle activists Hidipo Hamutenya with his colleagues. According to the Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba, SWAPO had never had such divisions threatening the very existence of the Party and felt sorry to have lost some of his comrades whom they have fought together in the war of liberation of their country.

He was hopeful that it won't happen again this year. But the indications right now are vilifying his thinking as already infighting within the party has shown symptoms. Ethnic divisions are very much obvious but normally are hidden in the fact that over one third of the population are the Ovambo ruling ethnic group. These are the people who were heavily engaged in the war of liberation, automatically when it comes to voting, they will walk away with victory.

However, SWAPO is eager to break this myth of ethnicity when it comes to leadership so as to have a picture of national character bringing on board everybody in terms of merits. That is Namibia and South Africa confrontational stance in their previous and current ruling party Congresses which are the major sources of disharmony influencing retardation of economic development and peaceful political climate.

In here we are still full of memories of our just ended CCM National Congress at Chimwaga in Dodoma. Any difference with other mentioned Congresses of the two countries? May be we have excelled them on bribes and corruption in bringing in leadership through vote-buying. However, I wish Thabo Mbeki would have touched the plight of our ruling political parties particularly those which have been transformed from liberation movements into political ruling parties and how they are perceived by the new generation!

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