The Politics of Dynasty

I’ve taken time recently to research around the issue of whether or not Nelson Mandela “sold out” as some African radicals have suggested in the recent past.


According to reports, sometime in 2010, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela told a British Publication that Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu had “sold out” to the whites.


“Mandela let us down. He agreed to a bad deal for the blacks. Economically, we are still on the outside. The economy is very much ‘white’. It has a few token blacks, but so many who gave their life in the struggle have died unrewarded,” Madikizela-Mandela told the London Evening Standard.


Also, elsewhere, Julius Malema stated that former president Nelson Mandela turned his back on parts of the revolution after being released from prison- whatever that means.


It has also been reported that certain of South Africa’s cabinet ministers alongside certain African presidents also share this sentiment.


Perhaps when one says that “Mandela sold out,” one means that the late statesman didn’t do enough to take the means of production and economic wealth out of the hands of the minority, and systematically transfer both political and economic power into the majority black hands.


I suppose that this is what many radical-cum-populist-politicians think the struggle against apartheid and colonialism was all about.


Nonetheless, I beg to differ.


Perhaps the debate about former president Mandela’s legacy should not be about what he didn’t do, but rather, about what he did do.


For those who would care to know, here are some interesting facts about South Africa’s democracy today which we can still accredit to Madiba.


  • Firstly, South Africa has strong institutions that support the notions of accountability, equity and rule of law. This is in contrast to many African countries which hide behind radical rhetoric and colonial finger-pointing in order to justify unaccountability and oppression.


  • Secondly, South Africa is one of Africa’s “big three” economies alongside Egypt and Nigeria. In fact in 2016, South Africa’s GDP stood at approximately 295 billion dollars. To put this into perspective, consider that Botswana (a country with a population of 2.2 million people) had a GDP of around 15 billion USD in 2016, while the self-proclaimed “regional revolutionary,” Zimbabwe had an inconsequential GDP of around 16 billion USD in 2016.


All in all South Africa represents 61% of SADC’S regional GDP while the so called “revolutionary” countries like Zimbabwe are underperformers given their vast mineral and agricultural potential.


Inevitably the question arises, why is it that Nelson Mandela is labelled a sell-out when the economy that he presided over is still institutionally strong and growing (albeit minimally), whereas other “revolutionary” states in SADC remain economic non-entities?


Perhaps the answer lies in the dynastic ambitions of avaricious African leaders.


Allow me to explain.



Political Dynasties


“It is not easy for a person to do any great harm when his tenure of office is short, whereas long possession begets tyranny.” Aristotle


To be honest, Nelson Mandela deserves every iota of respect that he has earned as a statesman. It’s not that he was perfect, because no man is perfect, and I know that I’m certainly not perfect.


However, after studying politics and African politicians for many years, I can safely conclude that Nelson Mandela did not “sell out” as some would have us to believe.


Instead, he took the straight and narrow political path of a single term in office and brutal accountability which is unlike many of his African political counterparts who cannot comprehend the meaning of the terms “step down” or “transparency.”


Here are some interesting observations.


In 2015, Togo, a country of approximately 7 million people voted for incumbent President Faure Gnassingbé for a third time.


Gnassingbé is the son and immediate successor of Togo’s fifth president—Gnassingbé Eyadema—and, once he serves out his third term, his family will have run Togo for 48 years.


Of course, this was not taken lying down by the Togolese public, and today in 2017, there are increasing calls and protests for President Faure Gnassingbé to step down. To date, it is reported that up to 13 people have been killed and hundreds of people have been rounded up, in what appears to be a crackdown on anti-dynasty protests.


Elsewhere, In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Kabila dynasty was established after a bloody coup d’état in 1997, when the Laurent Kabila militarily overthrew the long-ruling despot Mobutu Sese Seko.


That dynasty almost ended when Kabila senior was assassinated in January 2001.


Since then Kabila’s son Joseph has been at the helm of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and consequently he has presided over a nation characterized by repression instability and volatility.


Now that Joseph Kabila’s second term is over, he is refusing to step down, and as a result he is facing increasing protests and opposition to his continued stay in office.


Contemporary voters detest dynasties. Period.


In fact, public resistance to dynastic political projects is not uniquely African either.


In the United States Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump partly because of the abhorrence society has for political dynasties.


The bottom line is that in the modern world the people don’t like political dynasties.


Conceivably, in his political wisdom, Nelson Mandela caught this revelation.


I mean had he wanted to, he could have orchestrated his own dynasty. It’s not that he couldn’t have done it-He could.


In fact, He had the charisma, he had global support, he had the power, and he had the intellect to do so.


But instead he chose the politically straight and narrow path, and not the wide road of profligacy, wanton power, repression and egocentrism.


The fact that today so many African migrants live in South Africa is a testimony to Mandela’s legacy, and that is corroborating evidence that he in fact did not sell out, and instead believed that strong institutions, constitutionalism and accountability were the building blocks of a better South Africa.


Those who denounce him as a sell-out today, do so because his legacy of constitutionalism limits their liberty to loot.


Nevertheless it remains, as illustrated earlier that contemporary voters do not appreciate dynasties.


Now, with the ANC elective congress fast approaching, I perceive that the ruling African National Congress is caught between a rock and a hard place.


On the one hand, Dr. Nkosasana Dlamini Zuma is a revered and an experienced politician who has served well both nationally and internationally and perhaps would make a brilliant state and party president.


On the other hand, despite her positive attributes, as the ex-wife of sitting President Jacob Zuma, she is perceived as a pawn in a greater political dynastic agenda, and as mentioned earlier, contemporary voters do not respond positively to political dynasties.


Look at Togo, look at DRC, go ahead and ask Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush- in contemporary politics the dynastic agenda is bad for national business.


If anything, I would hope that the frontrunners in the ANC presidential race heed this warning and consider that the voting South African Public will not respond well to the Zuma dynasty political agenda- especially not in the context of a fledging economy, student protests, social problems and a slow growth.


If the ANC pursues its dynastic political agenda in December, it risks losing everything come the 2019 elections.


Already, the 2016 municipal election results show us that voters are unhappy with the ANC. The dynastic politics president Zuma is currently pursuing will only worsen the discontent.


The same can be said of ZANU-PF in Zimbabwe. If reports are true that President Mugabe is pursuing a dynastic political agenda, then ZANU-PF should prepare for perpetual political unrest in Zimbabwe, just like we are seeing it in Togo and the DRC.


At the end of the day this is what is clear to me: the politician that walks in the footsteps of Nelson Mandela will prosper. He was a politician’s politician, and his legacy lives through the strong institutions that he fought for.
Forward with democracy. Down with dynasty.

Tau Tawengwa


Executive Director


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The Zimbabwean Constitution (Amendment 20) of 2013 section 20 speaks about Youths.


Under section 20 the supreme law explicitly states that:


(1) The State and all institutions and agencies of government at every level must take reasonable measures, including affirmative action programmes, to ensure that youths, that is to say people between the ages of fifteen and thirty-five years

(a)  have access to appropriate education and training;
(b) have opportunities to associate and to be represented and participate in political, social, economic and other spheres of life;
(c) are afforded opportunities for employment and other avenues to economic empowerment;
(d) have opportunities for recreational activities and access to recreational facilities; and
(e) are protected from harmful cultural practices, exploitation and all forms of abuse.


Under the same section, the constitution also states that:


(2) An Act of Parliament may provide for one or more national youth programmes.
(3) Measures and programmes referred to in subsections (1) and (2) must be inclusive, non- partisan and national in character.



2018 Voter Demographics


The Zimbabwean electorate arguably consists of the following sub-groups:


(a) The non-voter that is apathetic and does not care about politics.

(b) The stable voter whose vote is partisan and constant.

(c) The unstable voter who cares little about politics and votes erratically.

(d) The stable voter with high level of information. (S)he has a moderate knowledge of politics and votes consistently.

(e) The highly informed unstable voter, who makes his own decision at each moment.



Now what’s interesting about the 2018 election is that the outcome will largely be influenced by the youth vote.



This is because approximately 60% of eligible voters are below the age of 35, while  only about 7-8% of eligible voters are 60 years old and above.



This contrast in numbers is stark, because ostensibly, the 7-8% demographic still holds the majority of positions in business and politics while the 60% majority lives a general life of underemployment and substance abuse.



This condition has created what economists and sociologists refer to as a high “age dependency ratio” in Zimbabwe.



Nevertheless, this also means that the outcome of the 2018 election will largely be determined by voters under 35 (the majority of which are women).



Interestingly, the high rate of rural-urban migration over the last five years has seen an increase in the population in Harare Metropolitan province, to the extent that voters in Harare Metropolitan Province could determine the outcome of the 2018 elections.



This is because Harare Province had 800 000 registered voters in 2013, and come 2018 Harare Province may see over one million registered voters casting their ballots.



With a total of around 3 million national votes cast in the last election, this makes Harare Province one of the key electoral battle zones come 2018, because Harare province alone carries close to one third of the national vote.



Now, since we’ve determined that the youth vote will play the biggest role in seeing who wins in 2018, here are a few important points that politicians should consider as they campaign and attempt to convince youths to vote for them come 2018.





Key Electoral Points


  • Employment



 If anything, urban unemployment is apparent for all to see.



In fact the “informal sector” as we call it seems to have outgrown the formal sector particularly in Harare.



This means that touts, vendors, “mucheka cheka” drivers, broncleer and other drug dealers, prostitutes, car washers, currency traders, shabeen owners, air time and newspaper sellers and others who trade illicitly and informally are more in number than those who are in formal jobs in Harare.



Unfortunately it is not enough to tell these people that jobs will be created after 2018 because they have been told that before.


Instead, it makes sense to take cue from countries like Lesotho, South Africa and Kenya where there is a loud and clear lobby for the youth to form consortiums and accordingly pitch for a percentage of government tenders and top positions in parastatals .


These tenders should be given to youth consortiums   according to the ratio represented by the youth in the country, in other words 60% of tenders should be allocated to youth consortiums,  and 60% of high level parastatal positions should be allocated to the youth in line with section 20 of the constitution.


It just doesn’t make sense that 7-8% of the population (that is those over sixty) should hold the majority of key government positions when 60% of the population are under 40.



  • Accommodation



One thing that I have observed in both high and low density areas of Harare, is that the prevalence of the youth live with their parents sometimes up to the age of 40.



Whether or not our politicians want to acknowledge this, it must be observed that it is an uncomfortable and untenable situation.



I often hear parents who started working just after independence openly stating that they owned their own cars and houses by the time that they were 30 years old.



With that in mind, our politicians need be answerable and explain to the electorate why they can’t give people the same opportunities today, and what solutions they have to the problem of accommodation which is a key electoral point particularly in Harare province.



  • Factionalism/Tribalism



Most young people who are born free (that is, born after 1980) barely understand racism, let alone factionalism and tribalism.



From my analysis of the grassroots, factionalism seems to be a game largely influenced by the minority 7-8% of the population (those above the age of 60).



Young people generally don’t care about who is from what region or which faction etc. They are more concerned about good leadership and progress.



Young people are concerned about money in their pockets, accommodation, being able to live decent lives and being able to raise their children.



It is important that politicians acknowledge this as we approach 2018, because the politicians that work for the betterment of the youth today, will not only be handsomely rewarded in the 2018 election but also in 2023.



The fact is that the 7-8% voter group of 60 and above have played their part in business and politics, but are now a minority and must give room for the majority youth lobby.



It is in that context that I support the ongoing Youth Interface meetings, yet I hope that all the political rhetoric we have been hearing surrounding the well-being of youths is supported by practical political will and action.



After all, section 20 of the constitution acknowledges the rights of the youth. Come 2018, let’s hope our politicians will do the same.



Tau Tawengwa

Executive Director



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