A common sense cabinet for some African politicians

Let me preface the following rant on African politics with three comments:

- Kudos to Ghana for their (almost) seamless presidential elections. With a vote differential this small, the absence of call for demonstration/protest is remarkable. The continent does not have a good record of close elections coming to term peacefully. I am not sure how we would have reacted in Madagascar in a narrow political contest but if history (and the venom currently spewed on Malagasy forums) is an indicator, a close election is the last thing we need.

- I do not follow the African politics as closely as I should. Therefore my comments should only be regarded as those of an intrigued and amused observer. I am also not claiming that I could do better if given the chance, an important factor to keep in mind when criticizing the job of others. [I do no support any Malagasy political leaders because I cannot make a complete informed judgment on all of them yet.] Still, as a citizen, I believe it is partially my duty to contribute to a conversation if I think a perspective is overlooked.

- Finally, I may be critical of some African politicians but that is not to say that other regions have fared better with their leaders (The nonsensical statements of members of the parliament here and in France rival those of African MPs on the level of sheer stupidity; a quick search for quotes from T. Stevens, R. Harris and P. De Villiers should amply suffice).

[Now on to the tongue-in-check rant...]

I found myself wondering too often whether most African leaders live in ivory towers. To remedy to the intermittent lack of vision, I suggest that an administration must appoint a "common sense" cabinet. A committee made of three random Joes ( not that Joe) who are to be replaced every year.

Seriously (Ok, almost seriously).

Three people would be sitting in on governmental meetings and would be allowed to veto two decisions a year. The selection of said "common sense" cabinet has to be random and exclude, well, politicians.

The reasoning is that often political/financial interests, overly specialized expertise and corruption get in the way of basic common sense.

Let's review the past week in African current events ( beside the well-known tragedies):

- The Malagasy president was recently questioned by the IMF about the purchasing of a new Boeing 737-700. I know that the president justified the purchase of his own Malagasy Air Force One to "meet the challenge of globalization".
I also would be remiss not to acknowledge that under his watch, the GDP growth rate is now at 6.7% and Madagascar became a decent option for many investors.

(Malagasy plane by caribb cc-license)

But with its population still mostly living with less than $2/day, the purchase of a million-dollar new plane for his own travels sounds inappropriate. That coupled with the land deal fiasco with Daewoo results in a PR disaster at best and evidence of poor governance at worst. The common sense cabinet would probably hear about the plane and say: " don't you think that plane-shopping can wait a little bit ? "

- Speaking of land deals, Kenyan government is still justifying the much-maligned lease of 40,000 hectares to Qatar. Though it seems that the deal was revised after citizens demanded a redo for the proposal. The three Joes would have said: "hey, we are now facing our very own food crisis here, we probably should tend to that before helping other regions prevent their potential food shortage"

- In some cases, a "common sense" cabinet might be too little, too late. Mugabe and Co. have reached that point a long time ago. Reports of the abduction and beating of a 2-year-old named Nigel Mutemagau have surfaced. Ethan's comment on the latest outrageous news from Zimbabwe is spot on: "if a government can’t be pressured into releasing a two-year old, I’m not sure if it can be pressured to do anything."

Unfortunately, the common sense committee in Harare is apparently composed of Mugabe and the demons that haunt him.

The list of events the common sense committee would prevent can go on and on and that is sad. Absurd governance tends to overwhelm the many progresses made by the citizens of the region. Because of my field of study, I have to add to the list the ineptitude of the former RSA government on the issue of HIV/AIDS and the proposed garlic treatment. Someone from the streets could have told them that they probably should wait for clinical trials before going public with such information. But their judgment was clouded by the political desire to come up with an African solution to an epidemic that has plagued us on so many levels. [Common sense guys: "Garlic ? really ?" ]

Align Center
( photo by Gio JL CC-license)

The main issue to me is that leaders are bound to lose touch with the daily reality of the people they serve. They often dismiss protests and petitions as pointless criticism from bitter, envious rivals. Sometimes they are right. But often they need a reality-check that their close acquaintances are seemingly unable to provide.

Best wishes to all for 2009.


  1. Anonymous3:30 AM

    Hey Lova, referring to the luxurious jet Ra8, he claims to have personally paid half the price of that aircraft [30 million $].

    By the way Happy New Year!

  2. Happy New Year Tomavana,

    Somehow even knowing that, it still seems like an unnecessary expense. I might be wrong but it seems one can support small business many other ways.