THERE is currently a very dry patch in world politics, a dry patch that is dominated by mostly accidental presidents, presidents that should never have been elected were it not due to electoral corruption or rigging, foreign interference, death of authentic presidents, name recognition but without substance and other anti-thesis to the imperatives of democracy. This article develops the Thesis that the current stretch of the late 2010s of this Century is indeed a dry desert in world politics.
It does not matter where you look, whether it is Africa or Europe or America, Canada, South Anerica, China, the Philippines, South Africa, Zimbabwe, the Middle East and everywhere.
Compare this period to the 1990s when Apartheid was abolished and Nelson Mandela and Bill Clinton were ushered in as presidents of their respective countries. Imagine the hope for the future of humanity those two inaugurations represented! That was not all. One Party state dictatorships started toppling down, one by one in Africa including Zambia in 1991, Tanzania in 1993 and most of Africa during that decade. The same feel for a breadth of fresh air was blowing in Europe with the toppling of Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher and her surrogate in Canada Brian Mulroney. Australia began to breath easy as well. Most dictatorships in Latin America were eliminated and began to be prosecuted including Chilean, Argentine and Brazilian Generals. The so-called Cold War had ended in 1989 with the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the disintegration of the Soviet Empire.
The Arab Spring continued the breath of fresh air in the Middle East and Northern Africa. The election of Barack Obama in the US in 2008 disrupted the then recent resurgence of accidental presidents like George W. Bush who had lost the popular vote to Al Gore in 2000 but was imposed on the US nonetheless by the US Supreme Court. Bush had literally destroyed the peaceful fabric in world politics, which the election of Obama countermanded. The Obama Presidency brought so much calm in world politics. You just have to compare that period to the current period under Donald Trump with his border wall campaign politics, his trade wars with China, the collapse of the once solid American-Canadian alliance, the ditching of the Iran Nuclear Deal, the vanquishment of the Paris Climate accord, his disturbance of the two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, his illogical rapprochement with the North Korean dictator Kim Jung Un, the breaking of the US-Cuba peace accord that Obama had initiated, the arousing of old style imperialism in his dealings with Venezuela, his admiration of a clearly insane Philippine President Duerte, his alliance with a new Hitlerite Bolsonaro in Brazil, his activation of vile racism in the US etc. An accidental President can do so much damage to national and international politics. Trump lost the popular vote and still became president. This had last happened to George W. Bush. Both presidents ended up destroying peaceful world relations hitherto existing. At least Bush can give the excuse of the 911 attack on the US. What excuse can Trump give? “America First”!
The rest of most of the world has engendered dry parches as well. In Tanzania, President John Magufuli stole that election of 2015. The people of Tanzania were tired of being ruled by one party since independence in 1963. The Party, TANU, transformed into Chamachamapinduzi had become self-entitled and was festering with corruption. People wanted change but the immortal ruling party since independence would not allow it. To banish the tattered image of the party, Magufuli like Levy Mwanawasa did in Zambia, started out well with the crusade against corruption. But the zealousness in the fight against corruption led him to the usual disease that befall most African leaders, they think they are God-given, omnipotent, immortal great leaders and they become instant dictators. Magufuli is now introducing a once dreaded One Party State Dictatorship where opposition leaders are paraded in and out of detention centres with charges of sedition etc and independent newspapers are threatened or closed down. Magufuli was once regarded by a popular but rapidly dimmed fiery academic by the name of Patrice Lumumba of Kenya, as a “breath of fresh air”. Magufuli is no “breath of fresh air”.
The accidental President Joseph Kabila in the Congo is still Kabila despite the recent rigged election that saw Tsitshekedi emerge as leader when in fact Fayulu won that election. The Kabila Senate controls the politics in the DRC even though Tsitshekedi is the President just as Vladimir Putin had once put a surrogate as a caretaker to get around the term limits proclaiming that he will resume his Presidency when the time came again, precisely what he did. Kabila has already pronounced publicly that he will resume his Presidency in 2023. Where is the change? And he is an accidental President having come to power in 2001 after the death of his non-biological father. Kabila would never have become President if his ghost father did not die under those bizarre circumstances.
In Zambia Mr. Puta-Chekwe in his recent book “Cobra in the Boat”(2018) puts in context the rise of Michael Sata and the legacy he set in motion in the current Zambian political dispensation. President Lungu would not have become President if Sata did not die under those circumstances and the leadership wrangles that ensued. Is Lungu leading us to a future democratic paradise or is he leading us towards the Magufuli way? It is one of the easiest questions you will ever be asked in politics and deep down each person can construct their own answer based on their own evaluation of the indisputable evidence before them. Start with the Puta-Chekwe book, move on to the use of the Public Order Act, analyze the charges of defamation of the President, go on to check factually which opposition as well as government leaders have been charged and detained for defamation, check how many leaders have been charged and detained for corruption revealed by the Auditor General, the Financial Intelligence Centre, the Public Accounts Commission and so on. The evidence is there and it’s objective. All it needs is an objective evaluator in the reader. Are you objective? The answer will be clear: Are we heading towards democratic paradise or the Magufuli Way?
Over in Canada, they elected Justine Trudeau as Prime Minister on the basis of name recognition. His father was once a most famous and charismatic Prime Minister of Canada, but the young Trudeau was not imbued with same. He is an accidental Prime Minister who started out very well, like Magufuli but became self-indulgent thinking he was infallible. He is now engulfed in a serious scandal in which he tried to interfere with the independence of the prosecutorial service under the Minister of Justice and Attorney General. The Minister, a self respecting Aboriginal woman, resigned in protest and what Trudeau expected to be hidden has now come to light. There is a dry parch in world politics.
China had began the politics of the rotation of leaders and governorship albeit under strict Chinese culture and conditions. Since shortly after the death of Mao Tse Dong in the 1970s, leaders in China have been rotating and evolving. But the current leader, Jimping decided to change the rule book by forcing changes to appoint him a life President. All of a sudden, stars danced in his eyes that he is the best there is in the whole of China until his death in the future! He is a Mao redux. There is a dry parch in world politics. I guess the world needs a Jimping to duel with the the self-proclaimed greatest American leader second only to Lincoln (1860-1865), Donald Trump, in matters of trade wars. Only a life president of China would have the authority and stamina to fight the leader of the so-called free world and most powerful economy in the world.
Trump right now in April 2019 is singing the song of a Shakespearian character who espoused the “let’s kill all the lawyers” because they obstruct totalitarianism by proclaiming that judges must be banished from deciding immigration cases because their “catch and release” mentality which is inimical to his campaign promise and reelection trajectory. Trump poses the greatest threat to the rule of law in America since the Second World War 75 years ago. All accidental presidents, all rigging presidents, all would-be life-presidents are wont to eviscerate the rule of law and bring chaos to their countries so that they can remain in power and avoid the inevitable would-be ensuing accountability. The dry parch in national and international politics never lasts forever. Politics is cyclical. Change is the only constant in politics. The South Africans under apartheid once had a riveting song, “Freedom is Coming Tomorrow”. And it came. It always does. Never despair. Darkness always breaks into dawn.
Dr Munyonzwe Hamalengwa teaches Criminal Law; Law of Evidence and Research and Writing Methodologies in Law.