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Africa Day 2016; reflections of a continent in need of new leadership

It has been a momentous journey for Africa, from colonialism to independence and post independence development. Africa has achieved a lot as a continent since 1963 with some of her great success stories being to achieve political independence in the bulk of the continent with only the people of Saharawi being the ones still fighting for self determination.

In terms of the economy, Africa has been averaging around 6% growth every year over the last decade with the World Bank projecting that the GDP of sub-Saharan Africa will reach US$29 trillion by 2050.

Human development has also seen a marked improvement with millions of formerly disadvantaged Africans accessing education and health facilities.

The AU has also developed and strengthened regional arms as it seek to be more influential in shaping the continent’s governance and economic frameworks through such initiatives as the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and institutions like the AU organ for peace and security.

Resultantly, peace and stability has improved significantly across the continent with a few hot areas remaining in parts of West Africa and the horn of Africa region.

In spite of all these positive developments and with over 5 decades after the first meeting of the OAU, democracy is sadly in intensive care on the continent.

While soon after independence it was the tragedy of military coups that scarred the face of African governance, now it is the third term syndrome and the curse of rigged elections.

The result of these two twin evils has been that Africa continues to be saddled by a failed generation of leaders driven by the will to power. Across Africa, tin pot dictators such as Paul Biya of Cameroon, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Omar al-Bishar of Sudan, Theodore Basongo Nguema of Equatorial Guinea, Pierre Nkurunzinza of Burundi, Idriss Deby of Chad and Dos Santos of Angola continue to be permanent features of failed African leadership.

These infamously brutal men continue to weigh down on the critical progress which the continent is making on the human development front. By denying citizens of their respective countries the right to genuinely chose leadership, this group of delinquent leaders effectively blocks the progress of the entire continent.

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However, the greatest story of failed and lethargic leadership is to be found in Zimbabwe where President Mugabe in his advanced years is determined to drag the nation with him to his grave.

In the 36 years that he has been at the helm of the country, Zimbabwe has regressed from being a country moving towards a middle income economy into one of the poorest in the world, competing for the poorest nation gong with war torn countries such as Somalia.

In 36 years of Mugabe’s indolent leadership, Zimbabwe has moved from being the bread basket of Africa to becoming a basket case. Three decades of independence has produced a nation with 91% unemployment with 83% of its people living on less than US$1.25 per day.

Parallel to the heart rending poverty and squalor which has become characteristic of Zimbabwean life, Mugabe has also created a class of the super rich. Through organized looting of state resources, patronage, naked corruption, nepotism and outright theft, Zimbabwe has been looted beyond imagination.

By Mugabe’s own admission US$15 billion worth of diamonds was looted in the short period between 2009 and 2015. In addition, various scandals involving high ranking officials in Mugabe’s establishment have been made public but albeit there has been no action thus proving beyond doubt that Mugabe is indeed the godfather of corruption.

In any case one does not have to dig any far to see evidence of the legendary looting that Mugabe and his cabal have presided over. The shameless crooks in the regime publicly display their ill-gotten wealth and even boast of being untouchable.

If Mugabe and his henchmen’s sins had only been to loot the economy then he would have long been rid off, arrested and rightly locked away for a very longtime. However Mugabe has also systematically disempowered citizens by embarking on periodic reigns of terror, particularly during election years.

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Since 1980, Mugabe’s party has consistently unleashed horrific orgies of violence on innocent citizens and also abducted and murdered hundreds of opposition activists. He has also consistently rigged the outcome of elections and thus robbed the people of Zimbabwe their right to chose leaders of their preference.

As another election looms on the horizons, the ZANU PF cult is engaging its default mode of violence. They also continue to shamelessly blow scarce resources in meaningless festivities such as birthday bashes and confused ‘solidarity marches’ while bring back the moribund Zimbabwean dollar so as to provide easy cash for sustaining patronage ahead of the election.

Given the dire circumstances facing our country, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) takes the opportunity of this year’s Africa Day to once again call for the resignation of Mugabe and his failed regime and pave way for the setting up of the National Transitional Authority (NTA).

The NTA will among other things stabilize the economy, rehabilitate the electoral process, embark on national healing and reconciliation and align the laws with the constitution.

At a continental level, as another decade beacons for Africa our hope is that progressive African leaders and genuine pan-Africanists should coalesce together and address the twin evils of underdevelopment and democracy deficit.

That 50 years after independence Africa still has the bulk of fragile states such as Eretria, Somalia and Zimbabwe is surely unacceptable. A new generation of young transformational leaders that put the people first ahead of personal interests is called for.

It is time for the real transformation of the African continent.

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263Chat is a Zimbabwean media organisation focused on encouraging & participating in progressive national dialogue

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