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Strong Men, Politics and Democracy

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on January 7, 2022 18:06

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When leaders have to justify themselves to the electorate, things may get uncomfortable. Unless the system is rigged to keep them in power, of course. History delights in stories of strong men who come to a fall. Problem is, they probably think they are doing good while allowing, sometimes facilitating corrupt regimes to develop.

While America is riveted to the ongoing soap opera of the January 6 inquiry, waiting with bated breath for the next document, the next deposition, the next book to come out, Southern Africa has similar entertainment. In Mozambique, government officials face charges of massive corruption while South Africa has seen the release of the first volume of the report by Deputy Chief Justice Zondo on State Capture. 

The Mozambique treasure trove of oil, gas and semi-precious stones in the Cabo Delgado region was manna from heaven for the political elite. The then Finance Minister, Manuel Chang, who signed allegedly irregular guarantees to allow $ 2 billion in contracts,  has been under arrest in South Africa since 2018, awaiting a decision whether he should be extradited to the United States, or to Mozambique where a trial of his colleagues about to start. The President, Filipe Nyusi, was cleared of blame, claiming not to have been aware of who was financing his Presidential campaign, nor that his son and a number of close allies were funneling these campaign contributions into offshore accounts. 

It is estimated that a number of corrupt deals had cost the country the equivalent of its 2016 budget in lost investment. A number of politicians, but not those at the top, face court proceedings, but the public has little faith in justice being served. But at the same time, the first non-Mozambican soldiers died fighting an insurgency in the Cabo Delgado, where despite the natural bonanza the people have not received any benefits nor decent services by the state. 

One wonders if, had the money for the underground riches been converted into infrastructure, support and employment for the people in Cabo Delgado, the region would not have been a productive, flourishing area instead of a breeding ground for insurgents. 

After months, no, years of hearings, Deputy Chief Justice Zondo delivered the first part of his report into systemic corruption in state organs to the South African President. Not only is the ruling party heavily implicated in claims of having received direct and indirect funding, ex-President Jacob Zuma is alleged to have used strategic placement of his men to hollow out the state security apparatus, paralyze the Revenue Services to prevent unwanted investigation in certain accounts, and to have benefited personally while cronies looted state-owned utilities.

The politically appointed Chair of the national airline, South African Airways (SAA), a close friend of President Zuma, is referred by Zondo to investigation by police for not only having laundered money through her son's accounts,  but also for having overseen fraud that has brought the airline to its knees. Expressions like "wanton disregard of the best interests of SAA" and "gross disregard for ... fiduciary duties" and "criminal intent" were used. 

International consultants are named. But those seeking the return of the former President have triggered an insurgency that had cost many lives and are ready to do so again. 

And the interests of the public then?

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on January 7, 2022 18:06

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Source: BBC
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Opposition leaders reject President Keïta's "nonsense" concessions as political unrest grows.

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