Response to Kuir on 'Zumas of Africa'

Category: Writing aboard the Kenya Airways: A story on coming to Rwanda for the first time
Published on Monday, 11 May 2009 02:54
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Jok Gai is a NSV columnist


(Victoria, Canada) - Allow me take a leave of absence from my column to respond to a colleague’s column

topic: Does Africa require Zumas?

Capturing the dilemmas that could have faced the South African electorates, Kuir invokes the Orwellian Animal Farm’s “Do you want Mr. Jones to come back?”

That was a pretty good high school book wasn’t it? My  short answer to whether Africa needs Zumas is yes, no and both, which could mean I have no answer.

Kuir has expressed his dislike for the Zumas of Africa. I would agree that this particular Zuma of South Africa has a huge moral problem not because he slept with an HIV+ woman but because he said that he showered after the fact. Those words will trail him. I, however, disagree when you accuse Zuma of lacking clear vision and goals. He is leading a well established ANC party. Suffice to say that the ANC’s position is his. In any case he is pro-poor as you correctly said. When he seems to lack specifics, it is perhaps because he is avoiding Mugabe’s path: the world of economics is proving to be a tough political line. Shall we watch out for this in Sudan if by a stroke of luck the New Sudan Ideology carries the day?

Zuma’s election was real democracy at work, wasn’t it? Mandela’s support for him probably came from a personal realization that leaders are only relevant at particular times but not others. For example, if Mandela had held on to power, he would have found it very antagonizing to preach reconciliation and redistribute land to the poor at the same time.

Bringing it closer to home, John Garang would have found himself at war in the presidential palace in Khartoum for the same reasons that are making Salva Kiir spend all his time in Juba!

You bring up a very good language: the language of the new breed of African leaders as used by the West. The East will pick up the vocabulary soon I suppose. This language has been used for a long time and for those to whom it is applied, another appendage comes later during their reign: African Dictators.

I watched Mobutu of former Zaire speak in a youtube video and I couldn’t believe he was the same monster I knew. That is the same line toed by Robert Mugabe (he was once a darling!). How should a good African leader be? You tell me. But good in the eyes of whom?

During the recent South African election, one voter said, “The problem with Thabo Mbeki is that he went to school in Europe and so he always thought that he had to prove who he is; that he is a patriotic African”. Perhaps that explains his downfall?

I personally liked Mbeki until his recent strong support for Omar Beshiir – that put him directly in my path. One doesn’t have to be blind to be an African. In the words of a former Canadian Prime Minister “The world must prepare to work with dynamic Africans”.

So will Zuma deliver? Let’s wait and see – his first cabinet appointment has already won praise.

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