Rethinking Africa’s political structures

Every system is designed to give you the results that you get.

Column by Vince Musewe

In my last article titled The Black Man’s Burden I spoke about how
Africa has, since 1951, replicated the same socio-economic results because of the structure of politics and governance adopted by its leaders. We have seen how country after country, leader after leader have all failed to develop Africa and create better societies even where adequate financial, natural and human resources exist in abundance.

Zimbabwe needs to take a new development trajectory based on innovative leadership. We need to take a totally new approach divorced from the past if we are to create new results and invent a future characterised by a society that is empowered, motivated, productive and free.

Every system is designed to give you the results that you get. Change the system and you change behaviours and therefore you achieve different results.

In my opinion, the fundamental reason for this failure is that we have been too lazy to think. We have simply changed personalities or positions while leaving our political structures in place; no wonder why we keep creating the same results! Of course our curse in Zimbabwe has been the domination by a single political party for the last thirty four years. This has exacerbated our problems.

My first idea is that political parties are based on loyalty, popularity, position control, years of service and lies. This is simply because of the way they are structured. The top knows everything and cannot be challenged; the bottom is only useful for elections.

Centralised power and discipline of members to adhere to party rules or directives are more important than the outputs achieved. In turn they tend to produce dictators at the top, who have privilege, power and soon develop a “god complex”.

At the bottom you have members who must conform and aspire to get to the top at all costs. Intrigue, spying, character assassinations, violence and even murder become the means to the top. Competency, delivery and social development become secondary.

In my opinion, a president needs not necessarily belong to a political party. We have seen how this compromises democracy and fair judgment when a president is partisan; he is most likely to implement policies that favour the party and not the country as a whole. This also opens doors to patronage, nepotism and corruption. Look at what Mugabe has done.

Cadre deployment divorced from competency becomes the norm and there is no pressure to deliver. You just have to look at our “new” Cabinet in Zimbabwe and our State enterprises. The same applies to South Africa.

If we have non-partisan President, we are likely to get a President who represents all Zimbabweans focuses on his job; to serve all according to the constitutional mandate given to him or her by the people and put Zimbabwe first. This includes the deployment of the best skills necessary to develop our country regardless of their political affiliation or race.

Second, leadership is a critical success factor. We need a national leadership council made up of good men and women to advise the Presidency. Their task would not only be a moral compass, but to ensure that all actions and policies taken by the President put Zimbabwe first. These would be free independent thinkers with diverse experience and wisdom. They would not owe their appointment to the President and must continually challenge his thinking. This would enhance the quality of decisions made by a President.

With regard to Parliament, our current members of Parliament simply endorse the party line regardless of whether it serves the interests of the people or not. Others are just there for the ride. We need to see Members of Parliament being elected based on what they can deliver to their constituencies and not their popularity or years of service in the party.

If we are to enrich our democracy, we must see independent thinkers and dedicated men and women, who appreciate that they are in Parliament to serve the people and are accountable to them and not the President.

Their sole responsibility must be to serve the constitution and to deliver value to their communities. This will remove manipulation, incompetence and waste. It will also ensure that a President has zero control of Parliament which is good for democracy.

In the case of ministers, we have a fundamental problem in that they also push party agendas and spend more time on this than on national priorities. I would not have ministers, but professional secretaries who are appointed based on competence and experience. They must be appointed based on personal values, competence, reputation and experience.

They would have a fixed performance based contract and can be fired if they do not deliver or are found to be corrupt. Too many a time, our Presidents have protected the corrupt and the incompetent only for the political reasons.

Not having parochial ministers has huge advantages as opposed to our current paradigm. In my opinion, they cost the public more than their worth. They also tend to be appointed based at the pleasure of the President and not on what they can do for the country. That must stop.

In addition to the above, we must establish community development forums for each and every constituency. Remember, the people come first! We must take democracy to the people.

Vince Musewe is an economist and author based in Harare. You may contact him on vtmusewe@gmail.com

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2 Responses to Rethinking Africa’s political structures

  1. scotv January 16, 2014 at 1:41 pm #

    @ Vince, please help me to understand this; who decides the composition of the council of leaders and terms of their contracts?

  2. Vince Musewe @ scotv January 16, 2014 at 3:07 pm #

    For example: Nominations by ALL stakeholders which then go through public hearings and a short list provided to the President. this process can be undetaken by recruitment management specialists. However the President cannot fire them! Or whatever is the best route you think. The idea here is to avoid patronage and having people the fear to challenge the President. The purpose here is to adopt the principle and then debate on how bets it can be implemented, I do not have all the answers. Or we could have an electoral college???

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