Barack Hussein Obama has travelled a long road to be what he is today: the 44th President of the United States of America.
And it has been a journey of firsts. Obama became the first African-American President of the US in 2009 — some 233 years after the founding of the republic.
By Conway Tutani
Not only that, he is the first US President with direct African links, having been born of a black Kenyan father and white American mother. Furthermore, he is the first US President to address the African Union as he did so eloquently and rousingly this week at the continental bloc’s headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to thunderous applause.
Obama has proved to be a cautious and deep-thinking individual by not being being reckless and inflammatory in condemning racist killings of black Americans over the past three years. This is in contrast to what happened here during the so-called fast-track land reform in 2000 when lives were needlessly and brutally lost in order to “instil fear in the white man”. What can stop Obama from saying: “I don’t want to see a white face”? His sense and sensibility, of course!
But he is nobody’s puppet as seen in his bold moves to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba after more than 50 years, and in striking a nuclear deal with Iran despite spirited resistance by right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu backed by a hostile strong opposition in the US. These steps are revolutionary and revolution doesn’t have to be noisy, violent and bloody.
No one can take away his gift of clarity of mind, focus and action. This is what won him the US Presidency in the first place. The American system — which had embraced slavery and instutionalised racism — shook itself up and voted for a virtual outsider mainly in reaction to the greed brought about by the marriage of politics and big business that caused the financial meltdown in 2008. Millions of Americans were thrown into unemployment, homes were repossessed and pensions were washed away in the storm. American taxpayers were made to carry the can. One does not have to be a rabid socialist or communist to see the unfairness of it all.
Working Zimbabweans need help in this economy. They cannot be thrown to the wolves.
During the presidential election campaign, then Senator Obama called for an economic plan for working families, saying: “We cannot only have a plan for Wall Street (big business). We must also help Main Street (ordinary people).”
Well, the rest is history — American voters bought the message, not just once, but twice as Obama is now in his second and final term as US President.
After winning the election, he did not relent, saying: “. . . a free market was never meant to be a free licence to take whatever you can get, however you can get it. That’s what happened too often in the years leading up to this crisis.”
Well, it happened here too often as well with ruling party bigwigs grabbing whatever farms and companies they wanted, looting and stripping them, enriching themselves and leaving the country in deep crisis.
Continued Obama: “Some — and let me be clear, not all — but some on Wall Street forgot that behind every dollar traded or leveraged there’s a family looking to buy a house, or pay for an education, open a business, save for retirement.”
Well, you would think Zimbabwe was awash with dollars with no liquidity crunch going by the obscene executive salaries and conspicuous consumption — that is, spending money on expensive things that are not necessary in order to enhance social status.
This lavish and wasteful spending to merely impress other people could have been the motive behind Prophetic Healing and Deliverance Ministries leader Walter Magaya’s splashing of $50 000 on First Lady Grace Mugabe’s book at her equally extravagant birthday bash last weekend.
It’s clear that this is not based on what’s good for the economy and the nation at large, but to indulge politicians. The sheer opulence and decadence of it all is out of synch with the dire economic situation in Zimbabwe.
Back to Addis Ababa: “When a leader tries to change the rules in the middle of the game just to stay in office, it risks instability and strife,” Obama said, aware that Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza, seated nearby, had recently defied that country’s two-term limit. Obama cited the shining example of Nelson Mandela, the first black president of South Africa, who left office on schedule and transferred power peacefully.
Obama also pointed to himself: “I actually think I’m a pretty good president,” he said with a smile. “I think if I ran I could win. But I can’t . . . The law is the law, and no one person is above the law, not even the president.”
Indeed, limits are essential.
First, the strife in Zanu PF which has had a contagion effect on the country at large is a direct result of the non-existence of a term limit for President Robert Mugabe.
Second, limits prevent the growth of a sense of entitlement. With no limits, leaders end up having a finger in every pie. In Zimbabwe, political leaders are now too involved in many interests — like business and farming; causes and events — like beauty contests and lavish parties rivalling Hollywood glitz and glamour — to the neglect of the crises facing the nation. They want to have input and control over all areas. If you demand to control everything, you end up controlling nothing. The result is they then stretch too thin on the ground, opening avenues for corruption and looting by government officials and Zanu PF youths using, for instance, the name of the First Lady. It’s hard to stay focused on crucial State affairs and have creative solutions when your interests are so widespread. The current job loss bloodbath can be very much attributed to an absentee government and dereliction of duty. This has real consequences across the country, across the economy.
Third, term limits make the country move forward. As it is, we are stuck in decades-long policies rooted in events and enmities that took place before most Zimbabweans were born. We cannot continue to fight wars long past and forgotten.
Some of these characters who have been an ever-present on the political scene for the past 35 years are now clearly tired and spent forces, thus can now only best serve — nay,save — Zimbabwe by stepping down.
Should Obama give them another earful?