Crucial lessons for the African politician in lockdown


The lockdown period that has not spared small and great, rich and poor, male and female, slave and master should be a time for massive reflection for the African politician who whimsically runs to the First World for his troubled health and sends his entire family for an education abroad while his own country lies in comatose.

The typical African leader has his official vehicles imported and clothes shipped from outside and his children educated abroad. It seems the patriotism they preach in its truest sense has not yet occurred to them.

United States President Donald Trump, known for his insolence, has often chided African leaders actually advocating for the re-colonisation of Africa. Some truths are painful to hear, but they indeed capture the African way of life.

To all intents and purposes Africa is just but one “country’” in light of how economies are run and the type of governance that subsist in Africa. One might choose to go to Gabon, Sierra Leone, Zambia, to our very own Zimbabwe and there are jaw- dropping similarities.

It is no secret that the continent remains, in the world, as comprising the downtrodden and the poorer among the poor. The infrastructure in most of Africa does not differ much, with most high-tech buildings being the sole preserve of capital cities. The rest of places simply carry a semblance of modernity but essentially remain with that primitive appeal.

The same is true of the road network in Africa. The existence of potholes is commonplace with a few “essential services” roads being up to standard. Potholes warrant resignation in the developed countries for office bearers.

If there is one thing that the COVID-19 imposed lockdown period should teach the African politician — it definitely has to be the stupendous importance of being proud about your country — not in word — but in deed.

Most African leaders are very vocal when it comes to black consciousness. The late former President Robert Mugabe epitomised the African leader with his downright caustic speeches that carried robust invective against whites. Black leaders profess love for their country and their people even as captured in Mugabe’s rant, “so Blair keep your England and let me keep my Zimbabwe.”

The white man has been denigrated for orchestrating the evils of colonialism and being incorrigible.

The truth of this rings with indignation in speeches by Africa’s late great men Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere and many others.

But what do you find on the ground? On the ground, the African leader represents the downright opposite of what he rants and raves about on the podium at every given chance.

The irony is mind blowing. The lockdown period and the fact that African leaders are confined to their own kingdoms should change their thinking onwards.

Firstly, COVID-19 has thrown a rotten egg on the African politician’s face as he does little by the way of ensuring a sturdy health delivery system in his own country.

Regardless of amassing massive wealth in gold and diamonds, the African politician, who would fly into the best of American and European hospitals at the drop of a feather, finds himself stuck in his own impoverished country he praises only in word. Now that they can’t fly to Europe, they come face-to-face with the grotesque reality we have all known of ill-equipped hospitals lacking basic things.

Why should Africa eclipse all other continents in the begging competition? Why should Africa rely on donations in every calamity?

If the African leader can splurge thousands of dollars in unnecessary air travel, why can’t he invest in his own healthcare system?

Boris Johnson, the British premier, was admitted in his own country at a local hospital. How is this possible?
The leaders there took pride in their country and invested in quality health delivery in their country. They didn’t wish they could turn to the US.
African leaders find themselves in a grave quagmire where they have the ill-gotten wealth but cannot access medical care due to the lockdowns. This should inculcate in the African leaders a sense of true patriotism, not merely preached patriotism.

Real patriotism is investing massively in one’s country. Hospitals should be teeming with ventilators and the necessary protective clothing for health personnel in this COVID-19 period.

Palpably, the guiding thought when African leaders in the mould of Uganda’s Idi Amin and Zaire’s Mobutu Seseko plundered resources in their countries was the fact that they could afford healthcare abroad and never gave a hoot about the people back home.

It is unfortunate that the same script has continued to play out for Africans till today. Even our very own Mugabe died in a foreign land all in the name of seeking healthcare. For Malawi’s Kamuzu Banda, it was the same story.

We sincerely hope that this COVID-19-induced lockdown will bring the African leaders to the critical realisation that they ought to build strong health and educational systems at home instead of relying on the First World.

Trump’s acerbic attacks on Africans may not be wrong after all.

 Learnmore Zuze is a legal officer. He writes in his personal capacity