I HAVE been following closely events in South Africa, as they mark Women’s Week — with special focus on gender-based violence — and this led me to make comparisons between abusers and leaders we have on the African continent.
guest column: Tendai Ruben Mbofana
What type of person would beat up, torture, rape, oppress or even kill someone who is obviously weaker than themself?
We all know that being a bully or a rapist is certainly not a sign of strength.
Can we not characterise that person as weak and cowardly — a typical trait of any bully, who seeks to compensate for his or her inadequacies by attempting to domineer someone weaker and less likely to defend themself?
This is exactly the same characteristics of the leaders we have on the African continent. As a result of their own lack of self-esteem and confidence, they are engulfed by a heightened sense of insecurity, and inadequacy — which are key components of tyrants, who then survive through repressing any opposition voices, instilling fear in fellow citizens through the use of State security apparatus and rigging of elections.
Just as any abuser, these leaders are not confident enough to allow open and free debate and expression of opposing views, as this makes them feel even more inadequate — contrary to someone with strong self-esteem, who would never feel belittled by any challenge or criticism.
Who has not come across, for instance a husband or boyfriend who wants his wife or girlfriend to virtually worship them and would never tolerate any challenge or opposition — leading most of the time to domestic violence?
This is the same scenario with African leaders! A quick look at more democratic societies — who obviously are fortunate enough to be blessed with leaders who are mature and self-confident — one cannot help, but envy how the population can freely and easily criticise their leaders without any defensiveness on their part, even being at ease with being ridiculed by those they lead.
In Africa, that can only be a ticket to prison or other forms of repression and abuse. Why, as a leader, should I find offence in being openly and freely criticised or even ridiculed and insulted – as this is part of being a leader?
Why would I feel threatened by those competing and challenging me — such that I ensure that their voices are stifled?
Why would I gain a sense of fulfilment and satisfaction by beating up, torturing and even shooting someone who does not have the same strength as me — and, obviously, cannot adequately defend themself?
Only a weak and cowardly leader fits such a profile!
Another question that comes to mind, when studying an abuser is: Where would his or her friends and relatives be, when he or she is committing all these atrocities?
What we have noticed with most Africans is that these friends and family members will shamelessly stand by and defend their kith and kin — no matter what manner of abuses he or she is committing against a weaker victim.
That is the same pathetic and disgraceful attitude we witness with our African leaders — as they would look aside, or even actively defend a fellow leader who is busy abusing, oppressing, torturing, and killing their own people.
We all have family and friends and would it be considered normal if I were to just watch — or even defend — someone who is clearly beating up, or tormenting his wife or children, just because he is my kith and kin?
This is exactly what African leaders are doing — as they allow and support fellow leaders who are corrupt, rigging elections, refusing to relinquish power, or are brazenly killing their own people. A recent case in point are reports by the Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc), Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa), and the African Union (AU) on the July 30, 2018 harmonised elections, in which they cited the peaceful and tranquility witnessed in the country — as opposed to previous elections, that were characterised by violence.
Why did Sadc, Comesa, and the AU fail to criticise the violence of those previous Zimbabwe elections, in which they were also observers?
Elections in 2000, 2002, 2005 and 2008 can be remembered for their gross violence against the opposition by the ruling Zanu PF party and State security agents. But these regional and continental bodies never rebuked the ruling party and government.
In spite of the numerous complaints by the opposition and various civil society organisations over the violent nature of the elections, these bodies decided to ignore these concerns while declaring the plebiscites as free, fair and credible.
If their conclusion was that the latest Zimbabwean elections were free, fair and credible, why did they not declare the previous elections for not meeting these standards?
Also, Sadc, Comesa and the AU never found anything wrong with ex-President Robert Mugabe and his abusive leadership’s toppling by the military in November 2017. Instead, they congratulated the ‘peaceful transfer of power’?
African leaders were too weak and cowardly in condemning Mugabe, but openly supported his dictatorship — yet, when he was forced out, they immediately moved their allegiance to President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
I can confidently assert that if Mnangagwa was to be toppled today, the same leaders would abandon him just like that. That is clear evidence of the hypocritical and unreliable character of African leaders. The same applies to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), in which its leader Joseph Kabila refused to step down when his constitutional mandate expired in 2016, yet these same regional did not criticise this illegal action.
As with Zimbabwe, only the international community stood by the people of the DRC, by demanding that Kabila respect the constitution.
Even when he was mulling amending the constitution, so that he could run for a third term, African leaders just stood by and watched — yet, when he recently announced that he would not be running, they all fell over each other in praising him.
It is about time that the people of Africa elect leaders who can boldly stand up against human rights abuses, both within their own countries and across the borders. Africans must reject leaders who want to vent out their own inadequacies on innocent, powerless citizens.
Africans should now elect leaders who have strong foreign policies that have zero-tolerance on any forms of abuses and human rights violations by other leaders?
Whatever happened to the spirit of our forefathers who sacrificed the security and economies of their own countries, as they supported those oppressed and subjugated in other African countries during the colonial era?
Kwame Nkrumah once said that the independence of Ghana was not complete until the emancipation of the entire African people. These leaders were prepared to stand by the repressed people of the continent — even when it meant their own countries being at the mercy of attacks by colonial or apartheid forces.
South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa was in Zambia recently, in which he thanked that country for supporting the fight against apartheid.
He even went as far as saying that he did not believe that South Africans would be free today if it were not for Zambian support.
The people of Zimbabwe also received support from Mozambique, Zambia, Tanzania, Botswana and so many others during the colonial period — who were also frequently attacked by Rhodesian forces, at such places as Tembwe and Nyadzonia, while Zambia suffered an economic blockade.
What happened to that philosophy? What happened to such brave leadership? Why do we continue to tolerate leaders who are only satisfied with holding onto power, while their neighbours continue to suffer at the hands of their own leaders?
We even have shameless leaders who flout international law by denying refuge to those fleeing persecution in neighbouring countries — just because they too abuse their own people and feel compelled to stand by their fellow abusers.
Enough is enough! Never again should we allow spineless leaders to lead our proud continent. We have endured enough humiliation at the hands of the international community, for being so weak and cowardly, such that we are regarded as primitive and uncivilised when it comes to our politics.
No more abusive leaders, who also just watch and even support fellow brutal leaders on the continent!