African liberation struggles degenerate to privileged family interests

Brigadier Muhozi Kainerugaba, President Yoweri Museveni's son.

Brigadier Muhozi Kainerugaba, President Yoweri Museveni’s son.

This columnist has widely read political literature about the Republic of South Africa. For instance when still under majority age at college, it was clear that legitimate citizens of all United Nations member states were issued travel documents/passports allowing them to visit all sovereign states of their choice except South Africa!

Civic education mentors enlightened us about South Africa’s system of legalized racial discrimination against majority blacks by a minority white’s government known as apartheid and on the agenda of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) from its inception, there was a resolve to end the racialism.

We were equally intimated on how the UN General Assembly and Security Council contributed to the global struggle against the apartheid rule, by drawing world attention to the inhumanity of the system, legitimizing Africa National Congress (ANC) popular resistance, promoting anti-apartheid actions by governmental and non-governmental organizations, instituting an arms embargo, supporting an oil embargo and boycotts of apartheid in many fields, including travel warning to travellers restraining them from visiting the country.

And of recent, I developed keen interest in reading the South African Perspective column authored by a white ANC veteran cadre and distinguished scholar, Prof. Raymond Suttner whose analysis has broadened my understanding of the current political scene and the governance challenges facing the ruling ANC of this African giant.

Throughout my career profile I have had a privilege to go there more than once and visited Johannesburg, Pretoria, Soweto and Durban enabling me to internalize the country’s socio-political dynamics.

Nevertheless, crafting this piece has been inspired by Prof. Suttner’s most recent column titled: “Liberation and Ethics: Is there a connection? Inspired because that column touched on similar governance misdemeanours on the continent, where he thus wonders: “It is unthinkable that such an alliance of forces (ANC) could degenerate into a moneymaking, lawless and violent operation represented by people who were prepared to trample on the values that we understood the movement to embody.”
Indeed the scholar is better positioned to accurately know why ever since the adorable civil rights icon and South Africa’s first democratically elected President Nelson Mandela retired, the biggest challenge would be and has been getting perfect feet to fit into his huge Shoes as Head of State and ANC party president.

Mandela’s successor, Thabo Mbeki had been Deputy President, whom he had mentored and given due passionate guidance and later succeeded him upon retirement in 2000.

However, Mr. Mbeki ended his second tenure pre-maturely in September 2008 when the country’s ruling ANC called on him to resign following allegations that he had used the country’s law-enforcement system to undermine party president Jacob Zuma’s chances of succeeding him.

But has President Jacob Zuma been a better successor? It may not tantamount to exaggeration if one stated that he is the most notorious ANC ideologue, with misdemeanours ranging from sex scandals, fended off accusations of corruption, and influence-peddling before he took office in 2009.

After being sworn-in as the third democratically elected Head of State representing ANC, Zuma billed taxpayers for construction of a swimming pool, amphitheater, and cattle and chicken enclosures at his private home. He has similarly used his position to place friends and family in corporate sinecures, flouted high court rulings and used security forces to intimidate his opposition-arguably the biggest challenge NOT only for him as a political figure but the ruling ANC image has been terribly tarnished.

The Guptas have been accused of exploiting their relationship with the president to choose pliable candidates for top cabinet and business jobs in a revelation that came to light after the country’s respected finance minister, Nhlanhla Nene, was abruptly sacked in December.

That ruling ANC has given him a backing against a genuine parliamentary impeachment attempt over the last week and he survived doesn’t exonerate him of the greed nor will it not keep the popularity of the party waning locally and internationally like a moon.

Such behaviour at the top has reinforced perceptions that the ANC has become a vehicle for personal enrichment rather than national development. Over the last year, anger about the corruption and lackluster economy has stoked attacks on immigrants, violent strikes and the largest protests by South African students since the apartheid era.

The bottom-line is: like in other African so-called democracies, there was and still is lack of party internal democracy. Instead there are bruising power struggles among individual party members for personal gains- that’s what happened between Mbeki and Zuma.

By internal democracy, I mean great reserves of understanding and patience, to shake off most of those acquired attributes, many of which are certainly incompatible with the politics of collective merit, call it vision. Certainly for a long time many will have to be continuously reminded to forget the ‘I’ and adopt the ‘We’ stance of accomplishing duties of the public good; making resolute decision via appropriate party structures collectively.

That is how Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe has wasted national resources under personalised ZANU-PF and state institutions, criminalised political opponents Morgan Tsvangirai and colleagues with all forms of inhuman treatment. The country’s strong economy he inherited has dwindled beyond repair while he clung to the throne till he turned 92 and all but guesses point to his wife Grace Mugabe as next President when he dies!

As I have indicated before, though praised for his role in transforming the country’s oil sector, Angola’s Jose Eduardo dos Santos has been criticized for leading one of the continent’s most corrupt regimes. Despite the fact that 70 per cent of Angola’s population live on less than $2 a day, his daughter Isabel has, through her father’s influence gone on to become one of the richest Africans and certainly the youngest billionaires.

One of the most globally acknowledged liberation movements on the African continent in the early 1990s was President Yoweri Museveni’s National Resistance Army/Movement he launched in 1981 after sham elections, where Paul Semwogerere’s Democratic Party (DP) had won majority vote but former president Milton Obote rigged into office using his military apparatus UNLA/F that had been in charge of state affairs on interim basis.

Museveni, who had been a Defence Minister and part of the liberation army at the rank of Colonel then, formed a Uganda Patriotic Movement (UPM) party and vied for presidency where he miserably garnered less than one per cent of the vote. He thus opted for armed guerrilla war premised on election rigging.

He has been in power for the last 30 years, overseen promulgation of a popular national constitution giving presidency only 2 five year tenures but through his manoeuvres, the term limit section was deleted. He has completely degenerated from set ideals of the five year liberation mission; restoration of rule of law, free and fair democratic elections, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly and opinion and other governance pillars.

Ironically, his fiercest political challenge is the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) founded by his former Bush war personal physician Dr. Warren Kiiza Besigye and other disenfranchised freedom fighters whose election contests his government has rigged thrice, including the most recent in February which was marred by widespread riggings; intimidation of candidates and voters, voter bribery, pre-poll box stuffing and other unimaginable election malpractices.

The worst part of Museveni’s rule is personalization of public institutions to keep in power. The state’s judiciary has completely lost integrity, national police is perhaps the most brutal and partisan on the continent while the national electoral body is the most incompetent and notorious.

The most painful part of this greed on the continent is when the presidents have military background; they have used the military might to claim a lion’s share of the national cake. We have seen late Laurent Desire Kabila recruit son Joseph in the army to succeed him. We have also witness Museveni recruit Muhoozi Kainerugaba, parachute him to the rank of Brigadier General and put him in charge of the Special Forces Command- the Presidential and VIP Guard.

The same example has been copied and pasted here in Rwanda where the first son Ivan Kagame has been parachuted I think to the rank of Major after undergoing intense military training from US famous military academies. After all as a French renowned philosopher Honoré de Balzac correctly put it: “Laws are spider webs through which the big flies pass and the little ones get caught” especially in the uncivilized nations in Africa.