Indeed Africa needs a new crop of young and dynamic leaders to emerge and tale the reigns from the tired Big Men of Africa and drive the continent into the new digital space.
By Edward Tsumele
If it was not for the fact that it was real and tragic, what people witnessed on TV and social media in the supposedly august house of the Pan African Parliament (Pap) in Mindrand on May 31, 2021, would have made good television viewing. A good movie or a stage play could have been better even.
Here are a group of grown ups, who in good times, normally address each other as ‘honourable’ so and so, and yet what the public saw was the opposite of honourable men and women.
And because this parliament is in fact Africa Parliament, we logically expect that those who are seconded there by their respective party leaders from various African national assemblies should represent the best of the best. But what we saw on TV, certainly those should represent the worst of the worst indeed. .
Let me attempt to describe how disgusting the behavior of these dishonourable men and women was in fact, as seen on TV. A woman was assaulted right there in parliament, in full view of television audiences from around the world. Someone promised to kill someone once they were outside the chamber. The dishonorable men and women shouted at each other at the top of their voices, like school children in a heated argument in the absence of their teachers. Shocking rude language was used against each other with liberal abandon and certainly there was no decorum to speak about in the house as thousands of people at home watched in shock the shenanigans in an African patliament.
The issue here was that they were supposed to do a simple thing, and that is to elect a new President of Pap because the current one’s term has ended. But then a group of people representing mainly SADC countries and others from other regions felt that as per principle of the African Union, of which Pap is an organ, now is time to rotate the presidency of Pap based on regions in order to avoid a situation whereby a Pap President will always come from certain regions. The reasons for that are complicated, but for now let us leave out those.
On the other hand, there were those, especially the Francophones and those belonging to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), who figured out that the matrix of voting for a President favoured them and insisted on an election for the position, the outcome of which was almost certain to favour West Africa and therefore they would continue the domination in leadership. Those from especially SADC and other countries would have none of that. That is when hell broke loose and these so called Big Men of Africa acted like little children in a kindergarten misbehaving in the absence of their teachers.
Some of them shouted that the police should come in so that elections should go ahead. Now they needed the police to come and organize an election for them. In a democracy the police do not organize elections for disagreeing politicians. Of course SAPS members who were actually in the premises never intervened, and rightly, so as the issues were a political in nature that needed cool heads to deal with them politically.
The way these Big man of Africa were so disoraganised, a member from Mali, a country which is currently under a dictatorship following a second copu in eight months was seen struttying around in the Assembly, actively participating even though his country a day before had been kicked out of ECOWAS. This must mean one thing, and that is that for all the talk about democracy, African leaders actually do not practice what they preach.
These men and women really made my day with regards to television entertainment, but the reality of these people supposedly representing us all, hit home, and it was only then that one realized the lack of quality in an African leader today, especially the old ones. In fact we do not have leaders anymore, but a group of people whose egos are bigger than their capacity to assist the continent and their respective countries to navigate the difficulties of Covid-19 by providing leadership and getting vaccines in time.
One realized that these kinds of leaders will not deliver the continent from its current challenges in the various nations they pretend to lead. These are not the kinds of people who will fix infrastructural challenges such as bad roads, broken health systems, erratic energy supply, deteriorating education systems, driving in foreign investments, assist in intra-Africa people movement, eradicating useless paper work in intra Africa goods movement and actually make ordinary Africans’ lives any better. In fact what we saw on TV, are a bunch of Africans caught up in their ego trips and their desire for power for power’s sake.
In fact the irony was not lost that the shenanigans played themselves out on the last day of Africa Month, May 31, 2021.
Even though these so called leaders are happy to call themselves leaders in their respective countries, especially because some of them actually participated in the over throw of colonial systems, especially the older members, it looks like in their minds they are still colonized, for we saw factions in that chamber forming based mainly on whether one is Anglophone or Francophone, instead of regarding themselves as Africans united for a common good for all African people on the continent.
And since they tend to believe so much in the legacy of colonialism, perhaps it would be better if they also wholly embrace the principles of their masters in Europe, sorry, former masters, because those seem to be doing much better than this lot when it comes to uniting European nations through the European Union. And just like the African Union, those nations have a European Parliament that works much better than the lot at Pap. And unlike the lot at Pap, trade between European countries is much smoother. Movement of people among European countries moves smooth as they have a European passport. The Africans are still talking about an African passport only in 2030, and witnessing what we saw on Monday, it would not surprise many If such a date is not met.
Belive me there are many people who love Africa and the future that continent potentially holds for its youth, business people and generally its 1.2 billion people, and only If we have leaders who see that future. Maybe we must wait for a new visionary generation of young leaders to lead and not the old guard who behaved in that deplorable fashion.
“….If one ignores all of the above and focuses only on getting Pan-Africanism right, we may want to look at the overriding objective, get the sequencing of policies right and take the better examples of the European Union (EU) and Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations). In both cases, more especially in Europe, the main objective was to prevent Europe from returning to the conflicts of 1914-1945. And they started small. In some ways the Benelux (Belgium, Luxembourg and Netherlands) customs union of 1948 was the precursor to the formation of the EU. The key was the free movement of goods, services and people, and the creation of institutions,” observes academic Ismail Largadien in a piece published by Daily Maverick.
South African feminist writer Sisonke Msimang, in a piece published in Africaisacountry.com about how Big Men of Africa have lost relevance and the respect of especially the youth tired of their shenanigans had this to say about Africa Month, and which could be applied to the leaders we saw on TV this week in Pap:
“The pride I once had—the pride of a naïve African girl who believed in kings and queens and the beauty of the past—has shriveled. Ha! I am a bitter woman. Every political leader I ever respected, stayed too long and broke too much or was simply too inert—too compromised to be taken seriously. So that by the time the last century was ending, I looked upon them all with a sense of fury and shame. Mandela does not count. He had twenty-seven years to burnish his skin with something no one is allowed to touch. The rest are something else. The misery they heaped on top of the misery colonialism left, has me ill and tired.
I have no nostalgic feeling for Africa Day, though I love Africa for reasons to do with history and oppression and ingenuity, even as I know it makes no sense to indulge in this strange kind of nostalgic solidarity. Perhaps knowing this, you will forgive my skepticism about African leaders and my cynicism about the day they have designated for us which we now stretch into a month. I believe in African people even as I have no patience for the Big Men who rule Africa. I do not however, believe Africa Day, or month or whatever, has any value.
My whole life, Africa Day has merely provided an excuse for Big Men to talk about the things Big Men like to talk about on days when they feed crowds and give speeches. They do this without irony or shame. The applause soothes their egos. I wonder what it does to their consciences.
Their shamelessness has angered me too much and so I have turned my face away from Africa Day. I have done the same with many other days. Women’s Day. Youth Day. These are not days for celebration. They are days when our betrayals should be catalogued. They are days that ought to shame those who know how little they have done.”
Indeed Africa needs a new crop of young and dynamic leaders to emerge and tale the reigns from the tired Big Men of Africa and drive the continent into the new digital space. Maybe that way we might meet the deadline of an Africa passport by 2030.