As I pen this piece, I am taken aback about a week ago. It's a beautiful morning as the sun didn't fail to spoil its African southerners with its radiant rays. I followed my usual routine of going for a morning run in order to make it in time before the sun's heat fully manifests itself. My morning routine usually ends with a Twitter feed scroll as I fish for the freshest catch of news, trends, and updates. “Not again” I exclaimed silently at the news of the recently instituted Prime Minister of the UK, Liz Truss, has resigned from office. It's only been six weeks”!
Frankly speaking, though I am a social scientist by nature, global news from jurisdictions outside Africa is not an area of interest. However, regardless of my interest, I am bound to know what's happening in these countries simply because they possess a monopoly on news. This western headline is different, the resignation of Liz Truss is worth my attention. Though the media has turned the resignation into a comical phenomenon riddled with memes, I couldn't help but see how in a way, her resignation is an indictment of our very own politics in Africa, again, we have been exposed!
Liz Truss, Boris Johnson, Kwasi Kwarteng, and Rishi Sunak are just some of the prominent names in British politics who resigned since the Boris Johnson era. I was careful to observe how there is a recurring reason why these leaders resign from office, the reason being the need to detach themselves from the political scene when it seems like their vision for the nation at large can no longer be seen through. Now here lies the contention of this piece, the idea that one ought to step down when faced with the above extenuating circumstances is not a justifiable reason to step down in other countries, especially here in Africa, if anything no reason is big or grant enough to warrant resignation.
What politicians in Africa fail to realize is that resignation is not a sign of political weakness, often at times, there is virtue in detachment, here the virtue being that one has the utmost respect for their Nation and for themself. We ought not to assume that African leaders who refuse to step down in the midst of serious and heinous allegations are strong-willed or resilient, if anything such behavior stems from one placing themself above the law, the politician becomes the ends, while the state is reduced to being the means.
Perhaps, how we view politics is the root of the problem. As a principle, politicians are meant to serve, this is stipulated in John Locke's political philosophy. A closer look at UK's politicians reveals that most of these candidates are skilled technocrats who are strong-willed and equipped to work for the greater good. It is not surprising that the new UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is a billionaire technocrat. It is rather unfortunate that this trait is found lacking in African politicians, with special reference to politicians from my home country Zimbabwe. In Zimbabwe and most underdeveloped countries in Africa, Politics isn't an arena to serve but for many, it is a job, a means to survive and eat. Therefore it is absurd to think one would resign from politics voluntarily, especially when political institutions aren't even strong enough to hold them accountable.
To further complicate this article, it is necessary to mention that it would be a poor assessment of politics to conclude that 1st world countries are prone to have politicians that play the game fairly, having politicians who are willing to leave office when faced with allegations. Let's take a quick peek at our friends 8 hours away in the United States of America. “I did not have sexual relations with that woman”, is a popular quote familiar to many. Though the United States of America is considered one of, if not, the most powerful country in the world, has had its fair share of dishonorable politicians who deny serious allegations. It's not surprising that Bill Clinton would later own up to his infidelity scandal once compelling evidence exposed him, leaving him with no option but to resign. This political culture reminds me of the famous movie classic starring Tom Hanks and Leonardo Decaprio, ‘Catch Me If You Can'. In America, you are always innocent until proven guilty, yet in Africa, you are innocent even if you are guilty.
If we further look to the East, great economies such as China and Russia with autocratic regimes where the state is the means and acts as an instrument and is subjected to the leaders, we can notice yet another complex nuance of their political culture. Allegations of crimes are seldom exposed as the state is under total control of the ruling entities, if anything, exposed crimes are usually just a display of ‘çatch and release politics’. Yet, under one single political entity and a leader who commands total respect, the Chinese have used their authoritarianism to stir their nation into becoming a global economic behemoth.
Therefore the prescription this article has to offer is simple. Let’s promote a culture where skilled technocrats are appointed into government, a culture where political participation is not based on liberation struggle credentials and nepotism but merit. It makes it easier to fire politicians who are incompetent as they have lives outside of politics and they don't perceive politics as a means of income.