Thursday, July 03, 2008

Africa needs more Mwanawasas

Ok, look, the news just trickled in that Zambian president Levy Mwanawasa had died in a Paris hospital. And as I was punching away this eulogy, more news trickled in that actually, he was not dead but “steadily” recovering after being treated for hypertension.
So, I am at a loss, but either way, I have chosen to proceed with this piece. A prosaic ode to a man I think this continent should not afford to lose now---not with the crisis that is Zimbabwe eating away at the southern end of this continent.
And it is with justifiable reason that I demand the Lord just waits a little bit longer before turning him into past tense.
I never praise politicians. Infact if you look at this blog critically, politicians are the fodder upon which my cannon survives. I tear them.
But look, Mwanawasa is not your typical African leader—he is unique and in a nice way.
In 1990, when it was clear Zambia had had enough of the old man Kenneth Kaunda, it was a foregone conclusion that the opposition Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) was coursing its way to victory.
All they needed was a stable anchorman and many wanted Mwanawasa to hold the mantle. Unprecedented in Africa, he turned down the offer. Guess what? He admitted that he was “young and inexperienced” to be president!!
Isn’t this a joker? Do I need remind you that Samuel Doe of Liberia assumed leadership at barely 25 years, what of our Kabila Junior in the Congo after his father’s assassination? His nose was still dripping with mucus when he began leading his people.
Even Jakaya Kikwete in Tanzania had to be restricted for about 5 years (and detained as foreign affairs minister) so that he could get enough experience. Otherwise, he was willing to take on Mkapa the first time, and trust me, he would have floored him.
So, here is a politician, who the prospect of being president is dangled before him, but has the balls to admit that he just can’t take the job yet. Look around Africa now, sure, how many presidents do we see, who assumed the throne too early? Gamblers on the job. I bet 95% of them still need induction that is if they qualify for it anyway.
But what makes Mwanawasa stand out, is his transparent approach to issues. When Chiluba made attempts to amend the constitution to allow him rule for life and the whole of Zambia was up in arms against him, he handpicked Mwanawasa in 2001 to succeed him. Look, in 1994, while serving as Chiluba’s vice-president, Mwanawasa threw in the towel. He accused the government of excessive corruption and called it a day.
Show me one African politician who quits because the system is corrupt and I will prove to you that we are on another planet, not earth. My guess actually is that droves would leave a government even bring it down, if it became accountable. African politicians thrive in corruption!!
So, Mwanawasa quits but Chiluba thinks he can use him as a pawn. He helps him get elected (albeit questionably) and LO! The immunity Chiluba had hoped for froze. Mwanawasa took the lead in opening Chiluba’s closet. You see, the short unionist (Chiluba) had caught the capitalist bug and literally looted his country. So, a horde of graft charges were opened against him—and his “pauper” told him to face the music.
Others may say Mwanawasa betrayed Chiluba, but I insist that leaders should be held accountable for their actions while in power. To loot, plunder, kill and maim and think you will make off because you have a pauper successor should be no security.
And now, there is this boil called Robert Mugabe. The madman of the Rhodesia. A liberator, whose people now need to be liberated from. he has run down the economy, exiled a third of his people, conducted a one-man election and still has the guts to call himself a liberator.
You see, this madman has scared everyone in Southern Africa from condemning him. The “mighty” Mbeki has chickened out. Others are merely producing muffled sounds, but Mwanawasa, who chairs SADC, has told Mugabe to his face that he disgraces this continent.
No wonder Mugabe must have been the happiest, when just after landing in Egypt for the AU summit, Mwanawasa was taken ill—Mwanawasa, who was expected to stand up in the club of looters (called presidents) and tell Mugabe to style up!!! Why did I hear someone say that Mugabe’s sangoma could have been behind Mwanawasa’s illness?
The bottom line to me though is that Africa needs more Mwanawasas---stand up and be counted!!

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