Some of the revolutionary parties that dominate Southern Africa’s political arena are People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) of Angola, the African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) of Tanzania, Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frelimo) of Mozambique, the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) of Botswana, South Western African Peoples Organisation (Namibia) and the Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (Zanu PF) of Zimbabwe. Other parties such as the Patriotic Front of Zambia also claim to be offshoots of former liberation movements. Over the years these parties have fortified their political hold on their respective countries and the region through formal and informal regional bodies as actions of solidarity.
Over the last three decades there has been some progress towards institutionalising multiparty democracy in sub-Saharan Africa. Despite this, elections in the region rarely result in changes of government. Most opposition parties face major obstacles to winning majority support. These include the fact that they are not trusted as much as governing parties and that very often they aren’t seen as a viable alternative to the dominant ruling party. Although some of these incumbents have lost some electoral support in recent years, opposition support has not been high enough to unseat revolutionary parties with only a few exceptions. But public dissatisfaction with revolutionary governments performance does not necessarily translate into perceptions that opposition parties could do a better job. The general citizenry in SADC bloc are comfortable with the opposition playing the watchdog role.
Zambia and Malawi are the only in the region to have the opposition dislodging revolutionary parties other than Lesotho where there was a coup d’etat. There has been a growing wave of labour parties exerting pressure on liberation parties with the likes of United Democratic Front in Malawi, Movement for Multi-Party Democracy in Zambia and Movement for Democratic Change in Zimbabwe.
The pro Marxist ideology that characterised most liberation movements that are dominating Southern Africa’s political matrix had cracks in holistically addressing the ever-changing demands of the electorate and this gave rise to the birth of labour parties under the banner of democratic movements.
Revolutionary governments are credited for the noble initiative of liberating Africa from colonial bondage. Truly they duly deserve such an honour given the long and protracted armed struggles they waged against the unrelenting colonialists. However, it must be categorically stated that revolutionary governments could have overstayed their tenure for the greater part of SADC and Africa in general. Their continued stay in power could be one of the reasons why Africa is not making progressing, both economically and politically, as desired by its youthful population. Moreover, many revolutionary governments are now infested by power hungry elements that manipulate power to serve their personal political agendas which are not people oriented.
Soon after attaining independence, African states were supposed to have a new crop of transformational leaders whose thrust would be setting up structures to competitively position the continent at par with performing world economies. But what we see today are revolutionary governments that are resident in the past, instituting draconian policies consequently resulting in the economic stagnation in many African countries among them Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique as well as Sudan, Somalia and DRC that are rocked by unending civil unrest.
The average age of African leaders is around 62 compared to EU’s 55. One can easily tell that African old horses will not plan a meaningful future because they cannot plan for a future which they are not part of. They are notoriously known to sleep on high profile platforms, the recent one being at the Russia-Africa summit where President Ramaphosa and Mseveni were listening with their eyes closed.
Revolutionary leaders have a serious obsession for power even if it means getting it through unorthodox route, they are ready to do that. Southern African Development Community and African Union have often been labelled toothless bulldogs largely because they have failed to bring to book their own constituency of power-hungry leaders. Some have argued that they protect each other’s power interests. That is the same reason why SADC could not lift a finger against Mugabe’s gross human rights abuses because they all shared the same DNA: they only want to rule while winking upon important issues involving majority. SADC is at pains struggling to resolve the political and economic crisis in Zimbabwe following the disputed 2018 Elections which opposition and European Union has condemned due to irregularities that favoured the incumbent.
Because of revolutionary political party’s dirty politics, opposition political parties across Africa have suffered serious unwarranted attacks in the hands of the former. For much of the 20th century, African independence movements fought colonialism throughout the continent. The movements rejected colonial structures that made whites the elite. Now that the revolutionary parties are in power, many use the same colonial-era structures to maintain their power, and keep opposition parties weak.
Leaders of opposition are attacked through negative media propaganda and haunted by state security agents. The electorate is also harassed, tortured and kidnapped as sell outs for only supporting a political party of their choice. A good number of African countries are culprits to this. The governments are not ashamed to rig elections in broad day light. Massive glaring electoral frauds are institutionalised through partisan government arms that always favour the ruling party.
Officially, the revolutionary parties may embrace multi-party systems and democracy, but their treatment of political opponents is controversial. Answers to why this is can be found in history. After World War Two, of the greater part of the world found itself aligned either with western democracy and capitalism, or with Soviet Union socialism and Chinese style communism. The Western democracies, however, denied freedoms and equality to their African colonies.
Champions of African liberation were naturally supported by communist powers and ideologies, which preached against the evils of colonialism. One-party dictatorship was another tenet of the Soviet and Chinese models. Revolutionary parties are ignorant to the economic modalities of the open market operations and they chase away investors by their outrageous policies. African countries are often having trouble because of matters that could be easily solved by adopting expert advice but governments of generals ruling by the gun consult no one. Poor economic output, inflation, poor service delivery and subsequent social unrest are the prices that one pays for such high-level of ignorance.
If Africa is to move to another level in all spheres of achievements, it must put national interests first. Policies and systems of governance should be anchored on national interest as opposed to the few elite revolutionary government officials. Africa must shun away graft, corruption, nepotism and patronage and actively engage the young, forward thinking and capable leaders.
Gone are the days for getting obsessed with party politics and promoting polarization of the citizenry. There is need to work together with all progressive leaders across the political divide. Civic rights organisations with the help of the United Nations must advocate for free, fair and credible elections to ensure that the will of the people is respected. The future of the continent must be left in the hands of the youthful population who by number account for the majority on the demographic distribution of the continent while the old guard, will always be handy on advisory basis.
Article from AFRIC Editorial
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