When leaders fall sick . . .

HARARE - Most of us possess an inherent, but often indefinable, admiration for the powerful in our midst. Until they are incapacitated by a life-threatening illness, we often believe them to be indestructible.

So it must have seemed to most of us, mere mortals, when first told of President Robert Mugabe’s illness — presaged by those many visits to Singapore.

For some, the discovery that this man could get as sick as we do, was something of a reassurance: he was mortal — flesh and blood — like the bedraggled vendor outside that shopping mall in Mutare, or a street kid in rags, sleeping in broad daylight on the dusty pavement in Second Street, Harare.

Like most people, I have always admired people of power, beginning with Chaminuka, the legendary Shona prophet, who my maternal grandmother spoke of with reverence when she told us of her time at the original Chitungwiza, his palace.

She spoke breathlessly of her time there, as a young girl. Why would she lie to us about that?

This, by the way, is not my plot to have you believe that I am of royal descent. Why would she, a God-fearing woman of very Spartan principles of chastity and honesty, pull such a stunt on her grandchildren? I believed her every word.

The people of South Africa recently had their own encounter with the reality of their president’s mortality, as he spoke in their Parliament after his election victory for a second term. Even the youngest TV viewer could see how sick the man looked, his clothes hanging on him as if on a skeleton.

The inevitable speculation: would Jacob Zuma end his second term on his feet? For some, it was wishful thinking — Zuma has his enemies too.

The truth came out: he was plagued with diabetes and heart trouble.

The 72-year-old was the intelligence supremo of the ANC during the struggle.

He has survived many episodes which his enemies termed scandals, but were, to his supporters, ordinary incidents of bad judgment or bad luck. Enemies were blowing them out of proportion to “fix” his image.

For Africa, meanwhile, leadership is in great crisis. South Africa and Nigeria have not been spared. They are the two greatest economies on the continent. They are not setting an example worth emulating.

President Goodluck Jonathan is faring no better than Zuma. Thousands have been killed on his watch. He went dancing shortly after the kidnapping of schoolchildren by Boko Haram.

Inevitably, there have been calls for his resignation or ouster.

In the broader picture, Africa’s health delivery system, even in countries not plagued by senseless civil wars, is precariously inadequate. The number of jobless people is a curse on the continent.

Nigeria and South Africa have their fair share.

Child mortality is the highest in the world, as life expectancy is the lowest. Blaming it all on the leadership is not enough. People must accept some of the blame. The leaders are mortal and can be removed.

People can truly unite, and remove the rot from their midst. The sacrifice would be worth it.

There are countries in the world which have had centuries of sound leadership, to which they can refer in times of crisis. In contrast, what do we have in terms of modern times?
There are woefully limited set standards for African leadership.

Corruption has bred greed. Leaders build obscene palaces for themselves and their wives. The people, meanwhile, live on a dollar day.

Illness may help kill them off, but there ought to be a limit to their rule.

Comments (2)

For all your borehole requirements - installations, repairs, diagnosis and pump sales. email boreholepumps@yahoo.com.

we do it - 27 June 2014

Bill, I would say 'you said nothing in many words'! Your title is catchy, but your content leaves a lot to be desired. The only interesting point is your claim to links with Chaminuka.... tactfully hinged on your maternal granny!!... very thoughtful but ... just hot air munyasarandi seni!!

Munyasarandi Saidi - 27 June 2014

Post a comment

Readers are kindly requested to refrain from using abusive, vulgar, racist, tribalistic, sexist, discriminatory and hurtful language when posting their comments on the Daily News website.
Those who transgress this civilised etiquette will be barred from contributing to our online discussions.
- Editor

Your email address will not be shared.