Africa Watch

Southern Africa’s scheming birds of a feather Presidents

Birds of a feather

With constant allegations of self-enrichment and corruption levelled at him, President Jacob Zuma seems to be a member of a flock of birds of a feather in the Southern African region.

While South Africans wake up every morning with new revelations about state capture and the benefits President Zuma and some family members, and friends, accrued from a corrupt relationship with the Gupta family, it is also true that similar allegations are levelled at other heads of state elsewhere in the region.

Democratic Republic of Congo

A recently released report by a New York University (NYU) research group, titled All the President’s Wealth, reveals how DRC President Joseph Kabila and his family has abused his presidential power to plunder the country and enrich themselves. It’s been happening at the expense of a suffering population, most which tries to survive on less that R15 a day, thousands living in constant fear under endemic violence.

It seems the Kabila’s are following closely in the footsteps of the country’s former dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko, notorious for his plundering and looting of the DRC.

Ironically, Mobutu Sese Seko’s, plundering and corrupt ways contributed to his 1997 removal from power by Laurent-Désiré Kabila, the current president’s father.

The NYU report divulges how the Kabila family have a vast network of businesses reaching into almost every sector of the country’s economy, generating hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues since 2003.

It is alleged that Kabila owns 71 000 hectares of farmland, directly and through his children; his twin sister holds a valuable stake in the state telecoms company; and his younger brother has business interests that range from mining and construction, to a stake in the Nando’s fast-food chain.

Two Kabila family companies not only have diamond mining permits along 450km on the country’s southern border, but jointly own, wholly, or partially, more than 80 domestic companies and abroad.

And, not surprising, there’s also a Zuma connection. The Panama Papers revealed questionable mining concessions granted in 2010 to President Zuma’s nephew, Khulubuse Zuma, shortly after the president visited the DRC.

The Guardian newspaper probably hit the nail on the head when it concluded that the NYU report ”… may help explain why Joseph Kabila, who was due to leave the presidency last year (after 16 years as president), argues the DRC cannot afford to hold elections.”

However, it is more a case of him and his cohorts’ serious concern of what could happen to them if presidential protection falls away.

The information revealed in the NYU report is by no means a complete expose of the Kabila and associates’ looting and its authors gave an undertaking that more is to follow.

In other’s footsteps

Kabila is not first or only head of state being accused of using political power and influence to enrich himself, family and friends, and then employs all kinds of underhand tactics to stay in power, or manipulate conditions to safeguard himself and beneficiaries once the immunity protecting sitting heads of state falls away. 

The long serving presidents of Equatorial Guinea and Zimbabwe, Teodoro Obiang Nguema and Robert Mugabe, are both mast masters in the art of political manipulation for self- enrichment. Joining them, Angola’s President Eduardo Dos Santos carefully designed his exit after almost 38 years in power.

After Angola’s 23 August 2017 elections, the country will have a new president, but Dos Santos has made sure his shadow will hover over the new leadership, and will do his bidding – protecting his, family and friend’s interests.  

All key positions in the police, army, and secret services are filled with his trusted confidants, and beneficiaries of the transformation of all state and governing institutions into “personalized, securitized and nepotistic elitist organs” cultivated during the Dos Santos years.

Dos Santos introduced other measures to prevent future repercussions and possible harm. He remains leader of the ruling MPLA, giving him an extra post-presidential hold on power and wealth, and a new law was pushed through parliament ensure decisions taken by the outgoing president may not be changed. Legislation was also introduced granting him immunity from prosecution for life.

It will be extremely difficult to undone the ‘insurance policies’ Dos Santos rafted over many years – including appointed his children into key financial positions.

His daughter Isabel, said to be Africa’s richest woman with fast business interests in Angola and Portugal. She heads the state oil company, Sonangol, the font of most of the country’s revenue. His son, José Filomeno, is in charge of Angola’s US$ 5 billion sovereign wealth fund.

Global trend

The tendency of heads of state, and lesser politicians, to misuse positions of power and influence for self-enrichment is not limited to Africa. It is a global trend, with an honest politician, it appears, is a species rarer than the coelacanth.

Globally politicians are vilified by the public at large, who has lost respect for their leaders. It is therefore ludicrous for someone like President Zuma, with 738 charges hanging over his head, to lament that people are disrespectful.

Respect is earned, especially when you have been elected to the highest office in the land to ‘serve the people.'

by Garth Cilliers

Follow us on Twitter | Like us on Facebook
comments powered by Disqus

Subscribe to the newsletter

Final Word

Final Word

IntelligenceBul Final Word Confusing world of sluts, gays and lesbians 0 years - reply - retweet - favorite

IntelligenceBul Let's Think Will Zuma admit that he is a “shady man”? 0 years - reply - retweet - favorite

IntelligenceBul Propery & Wealth Home-grown financial solution for a truly South African dilemma 0 years - reply - retweet - favorite