Vernon Mwaanga

VETERAN politician Vernon Mwaanga says lack of accountability and corruption have become the bane of Africa.

And Mwaanga says it is common to see African leaders assume power as paupers and accumulate so much wealth with their families and cronies within a short time.

He stated in a statement yesterday that lack of accountability and corruption had sapped the very fibre of society.

“What has gone wrong with our continent? I cannot claim to know all the answers to this question but suffice to say that lack of accountability and corruption in all its forms, particularly in high places and in our public institutions has become the bane of Africa. These evils have sapped the very fibre of our societies. They have become in essence a moral problem,” Mwaanga stated.

“Africa has gone through many challenges in this fast moving world. Our continent has been through many phases to get to where we are today. The political transformation which has taken place on our continent in the last thirty years has been astounding. We have had military regimes, one party systems, colonial and apartheid regimes not to forget that in 1989, we had as few as four countries, which could genuinely be described as plural democracies. By 1990, all but five countries of Sub-Saharan Africa had either transformed into full multi-party democracies or were well advanced towards becoming multi-party democracies.”

He stated that one party systems and military rule limited the political freedoms of African people and also retarded economic development.

“After the introduction of multi-party democracy, many political parties emerged and this development of new parties has not always been smooth or painless. Every democratic government needs a stimulus of criticism to perform better and in a sustained way. Opposition parties act as a people’s channel of discontent. With this new spirit of democratic multi-partism, new problems began to emerge of leaders using constitutions of their countries to overstay much beyond the two terms prescribed,” Mwaanga stated.
“Using the tyranny of the majority in their parliaments, we have seen many African leaders extend and overstay their welcome, causing immense frustration and disappointment among their people. We have seen this in Angola, Zimbabwe, Burundi, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Republic of Congo, among others. I would like to pay particular tribute to countries like Tanzania, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Malawi, Botswana, South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique, Mauritius and now Liberia, which have respected their national constitutions by sticking to the two-term presidential limits. Special tribute must go to Africa’s outgoing woman President, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, for doing the African women and all of us proud by stepping down after her two terms. This may be a signal that we probably need more women presidents on our continent.”

He wondered why African leaders wanted to overstay by manipulating their constitutions.

“How has this retrogressive development affected the fight against corruption, nepotism and lack of accountability? It has not been uncommon to see African leaders assume power as paupers and accumulate so much wealth with their families and cronies within a short time, which cannot be justified by their salaries and allowances, which are in the public domain. The founding fathers of our continent had their faults-and they were many – but amassing wealth at the expense of their poor people were not among them. Many of them left office with very little money in their bank accounts or properties, because they put their countries and people first,” Mwaanga stated.

“Many of the current crop of leaders seem to believe in a new culture of ‘me, myself and I’. You will find that people who were using public transport just before assuming office at various levels, now have a fleet of private cars parked in their yards and have built or bought real estate of unimaginable quantity. Regrettably, we have also witnessed a clamping down of the private media, which has been a crucial voice against abuse of power and corruption.”

He stated that a muzzled or emasculated media was a charge to democracy and that it did any government of the day a disservice.

“As a former newspaper Editor-in-Chief of a major media publication, I recognise that the media also have their own obligations to their communities. Among these is the professional obligation to investigate and verify their facts before rushing to publish. Former British Prime Minister Harold Wilson, once said ‘…Once a falsehood has been released, not even twelve truths can catch up with it….’ Our hardworking media men and women must have the diligence to work hard on their stories and the courage to publish only after their stories have been verified. Failure to do so only compromises media integrity and strengthens the culprits,” stated Mwaanga.