I know a lot has been said about the Mbeki demise and I will not get into the nitty-gritty of his fall and the impact on South Africa and the wider region. I just want to focus on the divide this event has exposed about Africa.
In fact, the exit of Mbeki makes me admire South Africa and weep for the rest of Africa, especially my own Uganda.
Mbeki has been pushed out of office after a judge concluded that the corruption charges that were being placed on Jacob Zuma were actually politically-engineered. Remember it is this same Zuma, who had earlier survived rape charges, in a ruling that courts again concluded were fabricated.
So, with the latest ruling on graft, the ANC executive found it prudent that Mbeki steps down, considering that he is implicated for trying to witch-hunt a man many already see as his successor.
Similar events have happened in Uganda—but with different resolutions. When Dr Kizza Besigye returned from self-imposed exile in November 2005, a few months to the presidential election in 2006, he was arrested and charged with rape. Alongside, charges of terrorism were slapped on him.
Of course, like in Mbeki’s case, President Museveni was trying to bar his once liberation colleague from assuming the presidency.
In the rape trial against Besigye, the judge ruled that the State had made “an amateurish attempt” in trying to frame Besigye and dismissed the charges with costs.
But that is where the difference between South Africa and Uganda comes into play. In South Africa, the ruling ANC party quickly moved in to order a Mbeki exit since through normal lenses, he had done wrong. He had to take responsibility and resign.
In Uganda, no one even thought about asking the president to take responsibility since the ruling absolving Besigye was in effect a condemnation of the government, and consequently the president.
But that should surprise nobody. In a country where taking political responsibility is unheard of, it would be asking too much to expect a president to resign for framing a political opponent.
That is where South Africans, despite the cloud of uncertainty caused by Mbeki’s exit, should pat themselves on the back. They are ahead of the rest of us.