Recent events on the continent have shown us the role of strong institutions and Constitutions or what can happen when these are ignored. The political instability in the Kingdom of Lesotho showed us what can happen in the absence of Parliament and its functions. The swift and peaceful transition between Zambia’s President Michael Sata’s death to the swearing in of President Guy Scott showed what a strong Constitution can achieve. The protests in Burkina Faso show that manipulating and disregarding the Constitution can bring a country to its knees.
What we cannot deny is that where strong governance prevails, good follows.
Good governance is not just about laws that ensure political stability, it’s a vehicle for changing lives at both a social and economic level.
Good governance is a conduit for building and maintaining infrastructure that allows for economic growth; it allows for health infrastructure that ensures healthy societies; and it ensures that those elected by voters are held accountable. Above all, good governance ensures that we achieve the targets described in the African Union’s (AU’s) Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want.
But good governance can only happen when it’s driven by good leadership. Leadership which respects mechanisms which ensure accountability.
The continent has produced great men such as Nelson Mandela, but it has also produced corrupt leaders who refuse to be held accountable. Post liberation, they enter into politics of the stomach. Self-preservation, rather than building nations that are they are custodians of, becomes the norm.
They live in R246 million houses while their nations face poverty and rising unemployment.
Critical to this is that leaders must be accountable to strong parliaments. Lesotho is an example of what happens when parliament is suspended, and democracy is suppressed.
Can we honestly say – hand on heart – that Parliament is working?
What example do we set when Parliament fails in its duty to hold the Executive to account?
What kind of message do we send out when our President fails to stick to the rules of the House and refuses to answer oral questions?
President Zuma must follow in the examples of great leaders such as Nelson Mandela who understood that in the fight for democracy, the rules enshrined in the Constitution, must be followed.
Last week, during a Joint Sitting of Parliament, a debate was called regarding a policy document of the African Union – African Union’s (AU’s) Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want.
And yet we cannot even hold a debate with our own president on what is happening right here in our own country.
We owe it to ourselves, the continent and its people to ensure that that good leaders are elected. Leaders who place the needs of the nations and people before their own. We need to do away with the leaders with the “It’s our turn to eat” mentality, and elect leaders who would rather feed their nations.
We have a duty to prove the Afro-pessimists wrong, by doing what is right: building independent judiciaries, accountable executives and strong legislatures, which are guided by the Constitution.
Africa, in my view, is the next economic frontier that will unlock economic opportunities on the continent and the rest of the globe. But, again, we need good governance and good leaders. Leaders who choose trade over aid; leaders who find value on intra-Africa trade; leaders who put trade regulations in place the benefit both the import and export of goods and services.
Africa has plenty of work to do. But the good fight is never easy, and requires a united and coordinated approach in order to work.
Let the sun rise on a new Africa! DM