I have been keenly following the political situation in the SADC region. The moves by new presidents in Angola, Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa have been eye-catching.
President João Lourenço, nicknamed JLo, has been cleaning house. He went after those accused of looting the country. Many of the alleged looters are now facing criminal prosecution and no one is spared. He appears to be unafraid of taking the tough decisions, which include instituting legal reforms to curb the powers and control his predecessor José Eduardo dos Santos had over the state and country. Lourenço went as far as not only firing Dos Santos’ children from strategic state-owned companies and agencies, he also jailed one of them.
An interesting observation is that fact that Lourenço was so determined to clean up that he did not even wait to be confirmed as ruling party (MPLA) leader before he started with his radical turnaround strategy. In fact, on the day Dos Santos handed him the MPLA instruments of power at a party convention, Lourenço had already jailed Dos Santos’ son for graft. The Angolan president went on to the list of nationals who kept their money abroad to repatriate such funds or face government confiscating such money.
In Botswana, President Mokgweetsi Masisi did not even wait to be substantially elected when he took over office on an interim basis earlier this year. He started by reversing some of former President Ian Khama’s decisions, which were seen not to be in the country’s interest.
The two are currently in a standoff, which appears to be far from being resolved. This also led to alleged attempts to oust the new president, barely a year in office.
While not much has been coming out of Zimbabwe in terms of criminal prosecution, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has focused on rebuilding the economy and strengthening institutions. He too appointed a new-look executive to steer the country to new heights after the recession, currency shortages and underdevelopment became the norm for over a decade in the country.
But President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa has so far stood. As soon as he took office, he appointed various commissions of inquiry to look into the failure of governance and collapse of a number of state-owned entities and agencies. Apart from making a few changes within his executive, after President Jacob Zuma was forced to resign, Ramaphosa did not take further action. To the frustration of many, Ramaphosa took an interesting approach that was aimed at building institutional capacity in the country and also allow the law to deal with the culprits considered to be responsible for the collapse of the country in the last 10 years.
Ramaphosa is not using his executive powers to fire and jail those deemed guilty of state capture and corruption during the Zuma era. He is allowing institutions mandated to do so by the constitution to carry out their responsibility to the nation.
Well, with the extra push of appointing the right people in the right places. This gives the moderates and neutrals a sense that Ramaphosa is not targeting his political opponents.
This week, Ramaphosa might have bought himself some more political capital when he declared in parliament that he is prepared to take his own children to the police station should they be involved in any nefarious activities.
He also told parliament that he told his children that they were not allowed to do business with government or state-owned companies or agencies.
Knowing the danger that such business poses to governance structures, this is what I call leadership. But there are those who will complain that the president’s children are also citizens and how should they eke out a living. Some will go as far as saying well Ramaphosa is a multi-millionaire businessman, who can afford to look after his children, what about those presidents who came from less fortunate backgrounds.
These are some of the questions we need to answer when we discuss the governance structures of our region and what we consider to be appropriate for SADC.