Lessons from Angola polls

HARARE - Angola has just held its elections in a very peaceful atmosphere, with its guerilla leader Eduardo Dos Santos being overwhelmingly re-elected into office together with his MPLA party.

The election, coming as Africa continues to battle the effects of badly-run elections in countries such as Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ivory Coast, was a breath of fresh air for continental politics.

For once, we had a properly-run election, which was violence-free and where different political actors co-existed.

This was also surprising for a country just coming out of a brutal civil war in the year 2000.

After decades of social ruin and endless disruptions, there is ample evidence that Angolans are not only maturing democratically but economically as well.

With Do Santos building his political career around his own charisma and ability to harness the country’s natural resources such as vast oil, and diamond deposits, Luanda must be commended for refraining from violence unlike the case in many other African states.

Although he has his own failings, the septuagenarian has largely used revenues from the country’s resources in a commendable way, hence the support his party continues to enjoy.

And this is a lesson, which our own leaders must learn from him if they want to win elections. After all, elections are about the people and having steered his country from a one-party Marxist state it is also a fairly liberalised, and free-market economy.

As it is, Angola is among the fastest-growing economies in the world and is sub-Saharan Africa’s third-largest economy, after South Africa and Nigeria.

With the country emerging as a key magnet for foreign direct investments, it has overtaken fading giants such as Zimbabwe, which has lost 10 years of growth due to political turmoil and the now never-ending haggling.

As an avalanche of Chinese and Western investors continue to pour in Dos Santos’s country, the benefits have also been good for many Angolans.

Although he has maintained his stranglehold on power, he has not done so at the expense of his countrymen through killings and all —  measures which can scare away investors.

Thanks to the wise use of diamond and oil money, several people have access to good health-care and education facilities, a move which has helped him cement his relations and contract with young Angolans who have been largely credited with catapulting him to power once again.

This is exactly what Zimbabwe needs – a contract with their government based on jobs, a promising and comfortable life in general.

They would also want the diamond cake to be shared equally among the country’s citizens and if that could be done then we could have a better Zimbabwe.

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